When I was a child in Minnesota, I used to get worked up into a Christmas nightmare over the fact that my family’s house wasn’t decorated and festooned, that we had no huge Christmas plans, no big gathering with our relatives planned. All the merry was not for us, the secular Muslims who never seemed to have anywhere to go or anything to do during the holidays. The Weirdos on the block–that’s what the child saw.
Today, the adult me finds Christmas a joyful time, a day off from work, a slow month at work to catch up on life, get some extra yoga time in. It’s my celebrating friends that seem to be stressed. Most of the Great American Christmas has nothing to really do with religion, Christian or Muslim or otherwise, but Islam makes a fine excuse to avoid the all the merry pressures.
It was years of having variations of these conversations with my friends, starting around college and into my late twenties, normally sane young women who took on a chic lit aura, becoming more hysterical than an elf getting stepped on by Paul Bunyan, that made me embrace Islam at Christmas:
Friend: I can’t afford to buy everyone everything they want. I’m going to be in more debt than the U.S. government.
Me: I’m not buying anyone anything. I’m a Muslim.
Friend: Seeing everyone again reminds of all the crap my parents put us through.
Me: My family is not doing a big gathering thing, so I will not have a meltdown remembering my childhood anymore than I usually do. I’m a Muslim
Friend: Everyone is going to keep asking me why I’m not married until I cry.
Me: This is the one day of the year no one, aside from my mother, will ask me as I will be invisible. I’m a Muslim.
Friend: What am I going to wear? I want to look like life is going well, that I’m okay about not being married.
Me: I shall be wearing sweats. They suit my apartment. I’m a Muslim.
Friend: When am I going to find the time to decorate?
Me: I don’t decorate except for weddings. I’m a Muslim.
Friend: What am I going to do if they delay my flight any longer? I’ve already had to make five different connections to get this far.
Me: Sorry, not traveling…now can I go back to “It’s a Wonderful Life” DVD? I’m a Muslim.
Friend: I’m going to gain so much weight sitting around eating all day
Me: Got to go. They’re waiting for me at the Chinese restaurant—the Muslims, the Jews, the other misfits.
Friend: If anyone else asks me one more time what do you have planned for New Year’s Eve, I’ll cry.
Me: I just tell people I don’t celebrate that either, and no one questions me…because no one has a clue what I mean when I say I’m a Muslim.
Friend: Who should I re-gift my presents to?
Me: Not moi. I don’t have the need to do re-gifting or be re-gifted. I’m a Muslim.
Friend: (sometime around the end of January) I need some help taking down the Christmas tree before it sets itself on fire.
Me: Oh, okay, time to get into the spirit. I’ll be right over. Being a good friend is the right thing to do, especially right before Valentine’s Day. Which I don’t have to celebrate either:) I’m a Muslim.
There are wonderful things about holiday celebrations, about connecting with old friends and family, but feeling bad about not being merry enough isn’t one of them. So if Islam gives me my excuse, I’ll take it.
Love to hear about your growing up in Minnesota – thanks for sharing this. Great post!
I know more about your growing up in Minnesota than most of your friends. I never knew that you felt so left out of Christmas, but I can understand it. The Christian holiday of Christmas is way over commercialized, especially in the U.S.A.. Nadia always insisted on focusing on the message of sharing love and celebration of the message. Some of our most enjoyable Christmas holidays have been spent with Muslim and Jewish friends and their children who helped us decorate our tree. I remember how their faces glowed when they looked at the tree that they had decorated. Sharing traditions, friendship and meals is a German tradition that my family always honored. One of the most memorable Christmas holidays that we spent was in San Diego. We had moved just two months before from Minnesota and had absolutely no family or friends to join us in celebrating Christmas. We invited an elederly man who lived near us and had no family or friends to join him to our Christmas dinner. On the following Christmas we joined some Swedish friends who I knew from and some Swedish sailors from a Navel ship which was in San Diego poirt over Christmas.
For most Americans Christmas is a day to spen
d with family and friends. But I have found that many people in California spend Christmas day serving meals to the needy.. That’s the true spirit of Chistmas.
Jim, I remember very much decorating your tree when I was about 5 or 6 and I remember how much my brother and I liked that! The commercialization of Christmas can be overwhelming for kids who feel left out of it, though, for what ever reason–I remember the kids whose families couldn’t afford all the fancy decorating, too, and how bad they felt. But maybe things are getting less that way now. I also find the California, with its relatively toned down Christmas, is much more in the spirit of real Christmas, one of those things people never expect from California. Next, Christmas in Nadia’s hometown, the original Christmas.
Hehehe…. Maybe we Muslims don’t get stressed out over Christmas (and Easter, for that matter), but we DO have Ramadhan (oh, what to serve for the Iftar party??) and the two Eids (oh, I hope no one has a prettier dress than mine!). Hehehehe…
We all have our stressors….. 😀
Oh yeah–but because not everyone around you is aiming to have a really fantastic time (no one even knew what it was in my neighborhood), it feels a little less necessary to seem super happy, which relieves some stress.
Until you have kids, and feel the need to make it super special for them. Especially when living in a part of the world where you may be the only Muslim family in the neighborhood (or in my case once), or town! Heheheh