Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The allure of Christmas from a Muslim Mama Perspective

Warning to those easily offended-if you are a Muslim who orders Turkey for your Christmas Dinner this article will offend the hair off your body-do I apologise in advance for that? HECK NO.
I am proud of who I am-including the bit of me that is British. Yes, I hail from the United Kingdom which is a predominately Christian country thus Christmas is the big festivities that mark the end of the Christian calendar and in theory the birth of baby Jesus.
Growing up in England during the 1980’s-1990’s I noticed many revolutions. The mobile phone-the era of text messaging and text ‘speak’, Girl Power, the rise of Grunge, Kurt Cobains' sad demise, Brit Pop, The Internet and the commercialisation of festivities. 
When I was younger, Christmas arrived at the end of November. We had the fireworks celebrations to get out of the way to make space for the Christmas decorations. But how that has changed. Now it’s a case of as soon as we’ve done the mad ‘back to school’ rush in September stores are getting ready for Christmas.
As a child I loved Christmas (a note to my Fatwa-loving sisters and brothers, please note I said I loved Christmas, I never said I celebrated it and so go on save your Fatwa’s for someone who actually needs them-thank you). The allure for me was the lights, the idea of spending time with your family, watching films curled up in front of the fire, hot chocolate with marshmallows, the songs on the radio (Wham! Anyone?) the Home Alone films, the presents, watching The Snowman...the festive warm feeling. That special feeling. My family never really made much effort during Ramadan and Eid even though my grandfather was the chairman of the local Masjid for roughly 20 years. My aunts and uncle would pose for their photos in their new clothes. My aunt would make pilau rice that looked more like cat food and we ate is like it was a feast of kings because that’s all we knew. Whilst my friend’s families had outings to the park and had presents on Eid, and their families made an effort to make their homes look festive, we were stuck indoors with the generation above wondering if Christmas was as boring as Eid.
 And as I got older the allure remained but realisation sat in. The realisation that the allure of Christmas was all marketing-in fact the real x-factor behind Christmas for many Christians has been lost in translation. Does anyone ever see baby Jesus on cards anymore? Hardly but you can get cards with Hello Kitty on. Does baby Jesus appear on Christmas decorations? God forbid, after all the commercialised Christmas needs to have broad appeal, why jeopardise that with an image of a Prophet?
Those ‘moments’ that made me tingle were all simply marketing. All of it. Boy did I feel ripped off. But then how do the Church going Christians feel about everything?
I recently spoke to a young mother of 4 who asked me if I was going to be celebrating Christmas. I explained to her that I believed in Jesus however he held a different position within Islam so we didn’t celebrate Christmas she replied with “Christmas isn’t like religious of anything it’s like an excuse to party”. Really?
Now Munchy is really getting into the spirit of Christmas television. The fact Disney Junior UK have been playing Christmas themed episodes of children’s favourites such as Curious George, Jungle Junction and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Santa seems to be making appearances everyday-surely parents of children that do celebrate Christmas find it frustrating to explain to their toddler Christmas is still x days away? Then there’s the movie channels pumping out Christmas inspired films. Whatever happened to Christmas films being shown during the two week Christmas break?
You have woman (and yes some men) up and down the country fretting over their Christmas dinner. I have never understood why Christmas Dinner is such a stressful experience which all it is in my opinion a Sunday Roast Dinner? The only differences I can see is Turkey replacing Chicken and Christmas pudding instead of Trifle (although I would take Chicken and Trifle over the latter).
Although I admit Christmas time seems magical because of the marketing pumped into it I do have a bone to pick with Muslim parents ordering Turkeys for your Christmas meal. You know who you are. Why on earth are you hijacking the celebration of our Christian friends? Do you see them ordering leg of mutton to make Raan and Eid to celebrate with us? Please have some dignity and remember the following:
You have two Eids a year-yes TWO make an effort on them rather than jumping on the super-commercial Christmas celebrations
Every Friday for a Muslim is equal to an Eid-true say. So that’s like 52 Eids a year plus the other two making 54. That maths alone should tell you we have more to celebrate than: New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas.
You have the whole of Ramadan to cook, pray and clean to your heart’s content-that’s like 30 Christmases in one (just think of the tiredness and leftover food).
And to the Halal butchers supplying Halal Turkeys-why in God’s name do you think Muslims want Turkeys? Please do not say there are revert sisters who miss Christmas and cook a Christmas dinner-if that’s the case have they no knowledge on their new deen to know we have plenty of celebration they can cook a Roast Dinner on? Why not cook a full Roast on Eid? Or invite your new family over for a Roast Dinner Iftari?
If you say your Muslim and having a Christmas Dinner is super important to you go Tesco and get a Turkey from there. I’m not having a pop at you, I’m stating the obvious. Then these same Muslim parents wonder why other Muslim parents shy away from inviting the Christmas celebrating Muslim kids to their homes for Eid parties. Why would they? In fact why would Muslim parents keep you in the loop of Muslim celebrations and parties if clearly you wish to be more 'universal' in what you celebrate?
Truthfully we are all leaving our legacy in what we teach our children. I want Munchy to remember her Eid celebrations fondly. I also want her to respect the fact Christmas for the Christians marks the birth of a Prophet as Muslims we completely respect and love-Jesus. I want her to know that Jesus holds a different position in Islam to what he does in Christianity. I’m sure there will be Christians out there who feel the same vice-versa. I seriously do not want Munchy teaching her children in the future that it’s fine to hijack celebrations of other faiths and neglect her own when her own is giving her more than 60 days of Christmases. I know I’m not the only Muslim mother who thinks this way.
If I have offended any Muslim readers rather than sending me hate mail maybe you want to ask yourself what offended you?
Now there will be Muslim sisters who are saying they willingly take their child out of School at the time of Christmas to avoid celebrating Kaffira celebrations. They also stop their child from attending Nativities, making Christmas cards and decorations and so on. These decisions I believe are individual. I personally wouldn't take Munchy out unless I was unable to explain the purpose of the activity and why it's different for us. If she went to a School that had a mixture of religious and cultural backgrounds I would however expect the School to put a bit of effort into Eid and other celebrations. But that is something I will look at when the time comes. I also feel it's important for parents who are often the loudest about their religious beliefs to give time to their Children's Schools PTA and fundraising events.  Time is the biggest gift you can give anyone especially the establishment that gives your child an education.
As Ramadan approaches us each year I would love to see sisters getting together discussing activities for their children, family celebrations, what presents they are getting their children, how they will make their homes festive, what they plan to cook and most importantly how they plan to do all that around the Holy month of Ramadan. I would hate the true message of Ramadan to be lost (and sadly for some it has been-those of you who believe Ramadan is one long Iftari party please read up on the true essence of Ramadan it will shock you to learn what it really means).
So as Christmas is in full swing in England, I cannot help but wonder how many mums out there are over stretching themselves by working, extra cleaning, preparing their homes for the influx of guests known as family they only see once a year for presents and food, wrapping presents and decorating their homes trying to keep up with the commercialised ‘Jones’. Of course the allure of Christmas has started to fade for me (Munchy wants snow-and seems to think Santa brings it) I still wish to live in a house like the one in Home Alone (American Suburbia is still alluring for me).  And as Frankie goes to Hollywood’s ‘The power of Love’ is played on a Music channel  I cannot help but wonder maybe it’s time we went back (as a Nation) to the true essence of Christmas-that little baby Jesus in a manger, with a life in front of him of pure sacrifice.

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