By Diva Allott
So you’re a new Muslim and it’s that time of year again, Christmas.
As a child it was one of our most awaited days of the year, to run downstairs and find all the beautifully wrapped gifts under the luminous Christmas tree.
Helping to prepare the dinner was a crucial part of this awaited day, we would then settle down on the sofa watching ‘Miracle on 34th. Street’ and then we would all pull our crackers and wear our Christmas hats.
As Muslims, we can’t celebrate Christmas as it is a Christian celebration. We believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) is a Prophet and not the son of God and that Allah is the only God, and we do not associate any others with Him. For many of you this can be a very difficult time as new Muslims, as your family may not understand and appreciate your new found beliefs.
In my first year as a Muslim I found Christmas very difficult, I had never celebrated Christmas in a religious way but just enjoyed all the traditions of sharing food, watching films and exchanging gifts with my family.
Also, I felt very bad as my mother is a widow and to leave her to celebrate Christmas alone pained me so much, I felt guilty. I knew that I couldn’t celebrate it so I tried my best to stay away over Christmas day.
I didn’t buy any gifts for any of my family as that is equivalent to celebrating it, and I struggled as I love seeing people’s joy when receiving an anticipated gift. I often went down a week or so before Christmas so my mother didn’t feel alone and she and other members of my family would always leave me gifts.
It is fine to accept the gifts on the grounds that it is not a religious emblem representing Christmas, or alcohol, or meat slaughtered purposely for Christmas or statues. I would accept the gifts and give thanks to them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) never used to refuse a gift from the Banu Israel (Jews) or from the Christians during their attributed festivities.
How to Cope with Christmas
Just think how much money you will save!
Now you know that you are not alone in your struggle and that al-hamdu lillah there are many more reverts experiencing a similar journey to you. Let’s focus on how to cope with Christmas.
First of all, don’t be sad that you have left Christmas behind in your new journey as a Muslim as God has blessed you with two celebrations Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. Just think how much money you will save! While everybody is running around like headless chickens worrying whether they have remembered everything on the Christmas list, sent all the cards and bought all the food, you can sit back and take the back seat. It is strange how funny the panic of Christmas is when you’re outside, watching all the fuss for just one day of the year.
Although Christmas may be difficult for you when you think how your family must be feeling having to continue their celebrations without you. Let them know why you can’t celebrate Christmas but that you are still the same person they know and love. Try avoiding going to visit family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day to avoid getting roped into the celebrations. Maybe you can go a few days before or after the celebrations just to let them know you’re there.
Another way of coping with Christmas is to use the holidays as a chance to improve on your Islamic knowledge, perhaps read some Quran, books of Hadith or just spend time making du`aa’ (prayer) and thanking God for the life He has given you as a Muslim.
This year, I decided to buy my family present for `Eid and try to involve them in my festivities to soften their hearts and in sha’ Allah (God willing) one day they will see the beauty of Islam and embrace it. For Eid al-Fitr I bought my mum and myself a trip to an all-women’s SPA for a chance for us to spend time together and to relax. She really appreciated the present as I don’t buy her gifts for Christmas, she felt like I had made an attempt to include her. For my aunt, I bought her a massive basket full of fresh fruit and decorated with ribbons. She loved the present and the feeling of being included. The first time I bought my mum a present for Eid I didn’t know whether she would be happy or offended. At first she said I don’t want anything for Eid because I don’t celebrate it. I said then: ‘I give you this present with the intention for `Eid, and if you wish to save it for Christmas then do as you will.’
Children & Christmas
Dealing with children in Christmas can also be difficult as they may feel jealous of their peers at school knowing they will return after the holiday bestowed with new gifts, toys and clothes. Teach your children the origins of Christmas and explain to them why Muslims do not celebrate it and that although the children have been offered many gifts for their celebrations that as Muslims, God has promised us much more in the afterlife and has blessed us with two `Eids.
When `Eid comes around, create your own family atmosphere as your family did with you at Christmas, build up the excitement and the anticipation of `Eid, but emphasize that it is not about gifts but about spending time with family and giving thanks to God on this special day. A good idea is to buy advent calendars around the Christmas period and keep them until `Eid and allow your children to begin opening them on the countdown to `Eid.
During this festive time, remember that you are not alone and that many others are on the same journey as you. Remember God and give thanks to Him for all that He has blessed you with at this time, don’t be envious of those celebrating Christmas as God has promised us so much more. Just be thankful for being shown the true light.
In sha’ Allah I hope that none of you struggle too much during this time and find the strength and faith to get through this busy period of the year.
You are all in my thoughts and my du`aa’ and may Allah bless each and every one of you for reading this article and seeking further knowledge.