Confusing My Kids at Christmas Time

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By Sheba Siddiqui @shebasid & online at: shebasiddiqui.com

Life Writer Masalamommas

I don’t celebrate Christmas. I never have and I’m fairly sure I never will. Growing up in Ottawa in the 80’s, my Christmas celebrating friends would often be shocked that December 25th was just another morning for me where I would sleep in and then go downstairs and watch cartoons with a bowl of cereal. I never felt like I was missing out though. I grew up being taught that Christmas just wasn’t a part of our Muslim traditions.

I plan on teaching my children the same values that I had growing up regarding Christmas.

So it came as a shock to me last week, when, as I was cooking dinner one evening while my two-and three-year-old boys were watching TV, my three year old turned to me during a toy commercial and said, “Mommy, can you buy me that as my Christmas present this year?”  I stopped what I was doing and laughed out loud wondering where he had learned that. We certainly don’t talk about Christmas presents in our home. It must be from school I thought. He’s old enough now to understand all the marketing and media that surrounds him. I gently reminded him that we don’t celebrate Christmas but maybe if he’s a good boy, he might get that present for Eid.

However, his question left me wondering if I had any part to play in his curiosity for Christmas. It’s not like my kids don’t have any fun. As Muslims, we celebrate Eid twice a year and in our house, we go all out. That means twice the presents stacked up for weeks, cookies being baked and exchanged, parties to host and attend, decorations to put up and all the while explaining the symbolism and religious understanding behind each Eid.

But I have to admit, I love Christmas! I love this time of year; the lights, trees, music, etc. So I had to ask myself, am I confusing my kids? What role do I play in showing them that Christmas really is the most important time of year?

Well, on the way to school this week, I caught myself teaching my son the lyrics to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the car.  I hum Jingle Bells during bath time. And while walking through the mall a few weeks ago, I shrieked with glee and pointed out Santa to both my kids as he was sitting surrounded by all his presents. I never go to Starbucks but can’t get enough of their red cups filled with peppermint hot chocolate during the holidays. So I had to really think about it. What role is Christmas going to play in my home?

I grew up singing the songs, knowing about Santa through friends at school and hearing about all the amazing Christmas gifts my peers had gotten in the New Year. I even have a picture of me sitting on Santa’s lap when I was about five years old (I assume due to my immigrant parents not really understanding what it was all about at the time). Yet, none of it fazed me.

Every Eid, I would get about $20 from any adult I saw that day (a lot of money back then) and would go laughing all the way to the bank. My parents would have huge open house Eid parties in which all the uncles and aunties would eat enough biryani and naan to leave them in diabetic comas and us kids would gorge on all the desserts. I never really felt like I was missing out on Christmas celebrations because of all the fun we had around Eid.

 

I have no issue with Christmas. It’s a wonderful and festive time of year, but my husband and I just don’t consider it to be a part of our household’s celebrations. And while I have the utmost respect for anyone who celebrates it, Christian or not, our home will never have a tree or milk and cookies by the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

At their age, the best explanation I can give my kids is that we are Muslim and that’s why we don’t celebrate Christmas. I know that as they get older, I can get into more detail but for now, that will have to suffice. That’s not to say many Muslims don’t partake in the commercial celebration of it all. I have many Muslim friends who put up a tree and spoil their kids with presents. We simply prefer to save all of that for our actual religious holiday; Eid.

We still wish our friends and neighbors who celebrate a Merry Christmas just as they wish us a Happy Eid when it’s our turn and I hope to pass on this respect for other holidays and faiths to our children. I want to teach them that simply because we are surrounded by all the marketing and seasonal fun doesn’t mean that we need to partake in it. Even if Mommy does happen to belt out George Michael’s Last Christmas every time I hear it on the radio…

Do you celebrate Christmas? How do you explain this time of year to your kids?

 

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There are 10 comments

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  1. Shai

    Nice post! It’s the same here. DD gets excited when she sees Santa but she learns it all from school. I just tell her that Santa doesn’t come to our house but we celebrate Eid. I try to make Eid a big deal, just like you mentioned – cookies, gifts, open houses etc. It was so fun as a child and I never felt I missed out by not celebrating even the commercial aspect of Christmas. Why would I? We got TWO Eids… and my friends only got one Christmas, lol.

  2. mara

    Your Eid sounds amazing. I think it’s very special to maintain one’s own cultural and religious traditions, especially if a holiday is based on faith and not folklore. I totally think that your answer to your kids is sufficient-We do not celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim is the same as my answer to my children: We do not celebrate Christmas because we are Jewish. It’s simple but it’s true. There’s nothing wrong with singing Rudolph or watching Charlie Brown Christmas. The holiday is everywhere. But, that doesn’t mean you have to join in. It’s ok to watch.

  3. Sohila

    When my son was 3 years old , as we were walking around Christmas time he said” mom,dad why don’t we have Christmas tree behind our window ?I replied you see we don’t celebrate Christmas and our new year is 1st of March . He had tears in his eyes and didn’t understand why. My husband and i had a discussion it was to late to have a tree and decided to have tree the following year. That year we celebrate our Eid Norooz ,we explained to him that this is our new year and we exchange gifts, called our family to wish them happy new Eid Norooz and if we were in our country we will go and visit them …. The following year we had a tree for X-Mas and celebrate our Eid Norooz too, year after year . Then when our son was in grade 11, near the Christmas time he said ” mom, dad you don’t have to put up a tree any more the gift would be fine ” .The moral of the story is why not have a tree, and celebrate X-Mas and our own Eids as well, we are living in a multicultural society & we should celebrate our diversity.Take every opportunity to be happy & merry .
    Have a Merry Christmas

  4. Lindsay

    Interesting! Our daughter is just over a year old this will be our first christmas with her in toronto. Last year we were in bc celebrating with my family. I’m a convert to Islam so grew up celebrating Christmas and our family considered it to be the biggest day of the year. I also love the holidays and plan on celebrating Christmas now and forever to maintain that connection with my side of the family. Im sure ill have some explaining to do as she gets older. i do however find all the holidays to be overwhelming! 3 big days within 5 months plus my birthday and my daughter’s (plus an aqiqa in the mix). She’s been spoiled!

  5. Nisha

    Even though I can see how the Christmas season can be confusing for families that don’t celebrate it at home, I can also relate to the parents that participate in the commercial aspect of it. Diwali has always been the biggest celebration at home for us with lights, fireworks, presents, sweets & parties. We always knew that was our biggest day and looked forward to it for months. On the flip side we also put up a tree at Christmas while my Dad dressed up as Santa and we opened smaller gifts. To our family, Christmas was just a special day to get together with cousins and eat delicious food. Last year we celebrated my niece’s first Christmas and that’s exactly what it was about, a special day with family. Either way I think you should do what works for you & your family.

  6. Shweta

    I have celebrated Christmas with my family for as long as I can remember. Growing up with hard-working immigrant parents, it was the one time of year where my mom was home with me for an extended period of time. It truly came to represent “family time” including visiting with cousins and eating lots of yummy food. Yes, we put up a tree, b/c it’s pretty and I currently go ALL OUT decorating my house. Why? Because I like pretty things 🙂 I have a very diverse family, muslims, hindus, christians are all represented so its nice to share in multiple holidays.

  7. Elaine

    This is tricky, because Christmas is so appealing! Lights, trees, Santa … wow! However, since I’m Jewish, I don’t celebrate the holiday itself. The religious meaning of the holiday isn’t something that fits with my belief system, so it doesn’t seem appropriate. I enjoy the spirit of the season and the parties thrown by friends, and am happy to join in, but I know it’s not my holiday. It’s tricky for children, because they often feel left out, but one key is to make sure their own religious/cultural life is rich and warm.

  8. Vaishali

    Fantastic post Sheba. It’s a point of view that I’ve never thought of and you touched upon the why’s very nicely. I can understand and appreciate your reason for not celebrating Xmas even more now . Thanks again to you in a post earlier this year, I finally understood Eid, Ramadan and the significance of those holidays in your home, family and religion. I envy that you have such a strong and deep understanding of the Muslim culture that you’re able to differentiate the actual celebratory aspect of these holidays in more than just a commercial way. Christmas is not my holiday either but my family has always made it a big deal to not let us feel left out or be singled out among our peers as we were growing up; especially as we did migrate at such a young age. From having just an Xmas tree to what has now evolved into a deck the house to the tee with holiday decor , family gatherings and piles and piles of presents. We celebrate the happiness, family togetherness, love and beauty of this season. I wanted to offer the same to my children and carried the tradition of celebrating the season rather than religious aspect .I suppose if my family had deeper religious and or cultural roots things would have been different., Kudos to you and your husband in instilling at a young age the importance of your family values and traditions. Happy New Year!

  9. Julia El-Haj

    OMG – thank you for writing this article. I struggle deeply with this issue. I grew up celebrating Christmas as a non-religious holiday. I embraced Islam and my husband is Muslim. My family still celebrates Christmas. We don’t want our children to get confused and have chosen like you to not celebrate Christmas in the house but to go all out on Eid. However, it is hard to compete with all the marketing efforts of this time of year. And, I love Christmas – it’s hard not to in the US especially if you grow up around snow! In addition to which I still hold very fond memories of Christmas with my own family and feel at this point we can not share it with my children because they will be confused. We want them to know the difference but I want them to appreciate and come to love Christmas and Eid as I have. Wish there was a little more positive acknowledgement about Eid in the US so we wouldn’t have to compete as much. All the best!


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