The way that my little family and I do things is definitely a bit unconventional at times, and the Christmas season is no exception. One of the more frequent questions people ask me is how we handle Christmas holidays with the amalgamation of two cultures, religions, and families. In past posts I’ve tried to be extremely open and write about our lives as honestly as possible, and as the holiday season goes into full swing I’ve had many people ask if and how we celebrate Christmastime. As usual I’ve decided to share some self portraits, stories, and a little explanation of how our branch of the Khalil’s do Christmas.
*As always, because I am speaking about religion I must put a disclaimer that I am NOT an expert on Islam, Christianity, Christmas or Santa for that matter. I am merely explaining how our little tribe has decided to celebrate and embrace all of the beauty that this world has to offer.*
On my side, the Christmas season was pretty basic and what I assume the average holiday-celebrating Canadian household probably looks like. Christmas trees, mistletoe, stockings by the fireplace; cookies and milk left to Santa and opening presents on Christmas day. As a young child we didn’t regularly go to church so there were no nativity scenes or crosses in our home; Christmas was more of a celebration at the end of the year with presents for being well behaved and Santa coming with rewards. When I got older my family started to go to a local church around the corner that I chose not participate in (homophobia, hatred, discrimination and I didn’t mesh well from a young age). I continued to celebrate with my family annually but again, the religious part of it wasn’t a big part of my life.
As I’ve mentioned before my husband’s parents are Muslim and from Lebanon, but he was born and raised in Canada. The fact that he was brought up here is a large factor in the way we do things around the holiday season, as the culture and celebration of Christmas has been around and in his life since he was born. His family is extremely open and tolerant of other religions and cultures, and although they don’t celebrate Christmas by going to a church or doing religious activities they participate in the secular parts of it – some have a tree, go to Christmas parties, take their kids to see Santa, make gingerbread houses etc. We live in a beautiful country that celebrates many different cultures and religions, and with the mall decked out to the nines and Christmas carols playing, you can’t help but get down with the cheer, am I right?
Also, to very lightly touch on this topic – I have never, ever in my life met a Muslim who hates Christmas, the decorations, or anything related. Ever. Not to say that there aren’t Muslims who do hate it – I’m sure there are – along with atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some Christians who do as well. But to clarify – Muslims love Jesus. Repeat – MUSLIMS LOVE JESUS. A lot of ignorant and uneducated people say that Muslims hate Christmas because they hate Jesus, or other insane things like they worship some different God (reminder to my English speaking friends – the word Allah means “God”- so they worship GOD – the same as Christians do). In Islam, Jesus is a prophet and a hugely loved and respected person. It is sacrilegious for a Muslim NOT to love Jesus, in fact. The difference is that they don’t have a holiday to celebrate his birthday on December 25th. And like I mentioned earlier, some Muslims chose to partake in holiday traditions in North America or other countries just like everyone else with Santa visits, decorations etc. because they are just that – like everyone else. Shocking.
What my husband and I have decided to do is continue the traditions that I grew up with. We have a Christmas tree and decorations, stockings for us and the boys; we give each other gifts, and take the kids to see Santa Claus. We both truly love the warmth, happiness and good spirits that surround the Christmas season, and practice all of the secular traditions that go with it. My main point is this: you don’t need to be a devout Christian to respect and enjoy the holiday season. Just like you don’t need to be Muslim to respect and appreciate those who are celebrating Ramadan. It’s really not as complicated as people think it is when you live your life with an open mind, an even more open heart, step back and remember that ‘we all come from the same root, but the leaves are all different’ (John Fire Lame Deer).
In conclusion – from my family to yours, I wish everyone celebrating this holiday season a wonderful, safe and very Merry Christmas. May your New Year be filled with love, learning, growth, gratitude, blessings…and this blog, of course.
-The Khalil Family