Happy Holidays

Oh my goodness, I am writing this in early November and I can already feel the drama welling up from here.

But it is getting to be that time of the year again…

Time for the Christmas Controversy.

But seriously, I have found there to be such a vehement divide in the community on the topic of celebrating Christmas, and for me as a convert with an American Christian background, it has been a particularly tricky thing to navigate.

On the one side, some vehemently denounce Christmas, on the basis that it was originally a pagan holiday and it is not appropriate for a Muslim to celebrate a pagan holiday, and then it was a Christian holiday and it isn’t befitting for a Muslim to celebrate that either, and now it is a holiday steeped in Western culture and capitalism, which are both evil so we can’t celebrate that either.

So basically if you happen to enjoy the sight of a decorated tree in whatever Western country you live in or you really like yourself a cup of peppermint hot cocoa in the December cold, you are imitating the “disbelievers” and are probably headed straight to hell-fire.

On the other, more laissez-faire side of the debate, we find the “heck yeah, bring on some nativity, let’s do Christmas” bunch.

I know you are wondering…so which side do you pick then?

And as always, I will tell you—neither.

I tend to prefer a bit more nuance in any argument than many of these types of debates allow for.

I myself do celebrate Christmas, but in a very specific way and with a very specific reason

Yes, I do enjoy the peppermint flavoured everything and the general ambience at this time of year.

But no, I don’t keep a Douglas Fir tree or any lights at home, I don’t exchange gifts with my husband or any friends, I don’t put on Christmas movies or music in my own house.

How I do celebrate, however, is the same way my family has been celebrating since I was born.

I wake my sister up early on Christmas morning to spend some quality, argument-free time together. I do still open the gifts that my mother will inevitable get me, and I give my family small gifts as well.

I still go to my grandpa’s house and enjoy time with my family, talking and laughing and eating too many cookies.

I still enjoy a big turkey dinner, minus any alcohol or gelatin.

Why do I still do all of these things when none of them have anything to do with Islam?

One reason, which has everything to do with Islam: my mama.

The holidays are one of her most cherished family traditions, and I know how much she misses me and how sad she is when I am not around to celebrate with her. It has been a rough couple of years for the family, with a few deaths of people close to us and others moving away, and it is getting particularly lonely for my mom around the holidays; I am not about to make that worse for her.

In fact, it is my duty as a Muslim woman to do what I can to make it better for her.

So I celebrate with my family. I don’t believe that this was the day that Jesus (as) was born, nor do I have any intention other than upholding my family ties.

In that same interest I am also trying to forge some new family traditions, by including my family in our Eid celebrations, buying gifts, sending cards, and all that as well.

Do drop me a comment and let me know where y’all fall on the Christmas Controversy, and how easy/difficult it has been blending old cultural and family holiday traditions with new Islamic ones; as always I love to hear from y’all!

Peace!

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12 thoughts on “Happy Holidays

  1. Quite a refreshing take on the whole thing coming from a convert.

    Even before my Islam, for my last couple years as a Christian, I had already denounced Christmas as a pagan invention. I would have nothing to do with trees or lights, any of the lot of it. My mother wasn’t exactly heart-broken about it though, because our Christmas traditions were always Bible-centered in spirit anyway; the rest of it was really just for fun. On Christmas mornings after opening all our presents, my sister and I would take turns reading aloud the different accounts of Jesus’ birth ﷺ from the Gospels in the living room, and church services and remembrance got more attention than “It’s a Wonderul Life” (although we would tend to watch that every year on Christmas Eve!).

    But like I said, as I got older and realized what Christmas was, not forgetting what it was about mind you, I ditched the outward expressions altogether. So it wasn’t a big step a couple years later when I told my mom it’d be better to just not do presents anymore either (I took a more puritanical “Salafi” approach right after converting).

    Nowadays, whereas you’re more toward the middle of the spectrum you delineated, I’m on both ends of it at once! For myself, I still have and want nothing to do with a holiday I denounced even while still a Christian, but I’m not allergic to it like some people seem to be. At the same time, I see where my fellow Muslims are coming from in their various approaches to it – from treating it as something like another Mawlid, to not participating but at least wishing “merry Christmas” to non-Muslims, to considering it to be shirk to even return Christmas well-wishes (although I’m less tolerant of condemnation for it). I understand how and why those opinions exist, and I consider them all possibly valid. Allāh knows best, after all.

    Gotta say, though, I do still quite enjoy a peppermint mocha around this time of year!

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    1. ashleybounoura

      The peppermint hot chocolate it my thing! 😂 yeah our Christmases were never really religious to begin with, it was mostly about time with family, which is why I feel ok with still doing it now. But I definitely see where you are coming from. I have to say, where it comes to born Muslims, especially in Muslim countries I tend to agree with the “haram, haram, haram,” side of the spectrum where celebrating Christmas is concerned, but especially for converts and those in western countries, I do think there needs to be a bit more nuance in the discussion! To wish a non Muslim merry Christmas is a matter of politeness and respect for others traditions in my opinion 🙂

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      1. Yeah, comes down to the individual really. If you associated Christmas with religion quite heavily like I did, you might still have more of an aversion to it. But in a place like England where Christmas has really become a secular, national Winter holiday, there’s really no need for such harshness.

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      2. ashleybounoura

        I agree, you’re experience sounds far more heavily religious than any Christmas I have ever celebrated! but when living in London I did enjoy this time of year, the general atmosphere is quite pleasant 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. justsayyas

    My mums a convert (she was quite ambiguous in faith, her dad’s family was Hindu her mum’s Christian, so she never had the same connection with those faiths as she does with Islam now). We had Christmas lunch with her family every year and it’s something I will always cherish. Just being part of the family gathering and a day of love. We are taught to respect all religions, so I don’t see a problem sharing their day with them. They go to church on Christmas Eve and we gather on Christmas day. We never exchanged any gifts rather just spent time with each other. I suppose my mother was in the same position as you are in, and she wanted to maintain family relations which I am so grateful for. I know so many kids of converts who are estranged from their non-muslim family and it breaks my heart.
    Knowing my family made me more tolerant, accepting and loving to all people, something thats not always common among other ‘born’ muslims in my community. A sad but true fact.

    -Christmas is in summer here, so no peppermint hot chocolate for me 😦

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    1. ashleybounoura

      Thank you for your comment! I always wonder what it will be like when I myself have kids someday (inshAllah!), and I think I will try to do the same, my family and my kids shouldn’t have to miss out on time together because we strictly refuse to celebrate with people outside of our community. I think it is indeed a good way to show your still respect and care for your parents, even though your religion has changed. It is heartbreaking to see so many converts lose family of both small things like this and large things :/ But I agree with you 100%, tolerance, compassion and love are things that are seriously lacking in the world, and any small way we can foster more of that is something we should be working on!

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  3. Asalaamu alaikum sister 🙂 I am pretty much on the exact same page as you Christmas-wise. I don’t do decorations or music or movies, and obviously I don’t do Christmas parties or drinks or the yearly work ‘secret santa’. I have eased out probably 80% of my pre-Muslim Christmas traditions, but I still have dinner and I still buy gifts. I’m like you and am slowly creeping in a couple of ‘Eid traditions – my Mum has become my unofficial ‘Eid buddy’, and we always do something together on ‘Eid day to mark it as something special alhamdulillah. I can’t expect her to respect my festivals without giving her something back in return. Having said that, insha’Allah I am planning on making this the last Christmas I buy any gifts, and plan to buy my family only ‘Eid gifts in future. I dream of one day being able to hide out the Christmas period in a secluded cabin in the woods somewhere haha, but while I’m still living at home, and still in the relatively early phases of letting my family get used to my new lifestyle and religion, Christmas still features, even if just that little bit, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ashleybounoura

      Wa alaikum salaam! Your comment reminds me about how much it is all about the journey 🙂 I pretty much only keep up with traditions where my family is concerned, though like you said I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy it! That is quite natural really, it is something we have been used to our whole lives 🙂 but I have phased out all of my own personal Christmas traditions or things with friends. That’s so cool that your mom is your eid buddy! I wasn’t with my mom for my first two eids, but inshAllah we can bring her and my sister and grandpa and all have a big family eid next year!

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  4. Assalamualikum. I’m a born Muslim and living in a Muslim country. I felt very good to read all of your conversations. It was insightful for me. Your experiences opened my mind towards new avenues of LIFE! Thank you all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ashleybounoura

      Wa alaikum salaam 🙂 thank you for your comment, I am glad I could show you a new point of view 🙂 That was actually how I began to study Islam…I had a friend from a Muslim country and she really opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know about the rest of the world, so I began studying!

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