Part 2 of a two-part series on celebrating Christmas as Muslims. Check out Part 1!
Don’t forget to check out Part 1: ‘Tis the Season to be jolly…For Muslims too?’ for a closer look at what should concern us about celebrating Christmas as Muslims.
The Christmas period with its overwhelming presence is difficult in many ways for Muslims to manage. On the one hand, we endeavour to remain steadfast in our Islamic faith and on the other hand, we try to be respectful to our non-Muslim colleagues and friends. It’s a tough balancing act especially if you are living in the West; though, living through the Christmas period in Pakistan is no less difficult nowadays with Christmas décor in every mall and restaurant and Christmas activities being carried out in workplaces and schools.
The important thing, foremost, as a Muslim, is to establish boundaries, wherever you are, of what you can and cannot do. People generally respect clear boundaries and you will have an easier time at your workplace or among your friends if you are clear from the outset. If you are a Muslim parent, communicate these boundaries to your children as well as to their teachers and schools.
Not celebrating Christmas does not exclude you from some glorious level of fun you cannot have otherwise. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“Allah has replaced you [in place of these holidays] with that which is better than them; Eid al-Aḍḥā and Eid al-Fiṭr.” (Abu Dawood)
Take opportunities to celebrate Eid as fully as you can. If you like Christmas décor, why not take some time out before Eid to hunt for Eid-themed decorations and deck your house all out. If presents are your thing, when is a better moment to give presents than on Eid? Remember to include those who are less privileged than you in your gift-giving and receive oodles of barakah and khair.
If your workplace is celebrating Christmas and has special activities planned, try to excuse yourself as respectfully as you can. If you cannot do that, be open with your colleagues. In the West, many prefer non-denominational (not specific to any religion) holiday celebrations over exclusively Christmas celebrations anyway. Try to influence your workplace to have more ‘inclusive’ activities than Christmas-specific ones. If you are obliged to partake in workplace Christmas gift-giving, offer an alternative, like preparing food for everyone.
Do, however, respect your non-Muslim colleagues. If you happen to work in a Muslim-majority country like Pakistan and your colleague celebrates Christmas, try offering to cover for them if they want to take days off for Christmas. If you are an employer, give your employees days off from work during their holiday period.
If your child or your child’s school wants to celebrate Christmas, talk to them. Have a ‘Jesus (AS) week’ at home and teach your child about the story of Jesus (AS) and Mary (AS) and his place in Islam. Ask your child’s school if your child can tell their class about what he/she learnt. Be clear to the school that your child should be able to opt-out of any Christmas-specific activity. Again, ask for non-denominational celebrations instead of a religion-specific one.
When you celebrate Eid, include your child in the decorations, the gift-giving, and the food-making so that they do not look to Christmas to provide them with these. In December, you can involve your child in the spirit of charity by doing a clothes or food drive with their friends and taking them to give their donations personally to people in need.
Finally, be respectful of everyone and their religion and traditions. Do not be critical and harsh about Christmas celebrations but remember to be firm with your boundaries so you avoid any deed which might be displeasing to Allah (SWT).