How to Keep Christmas from Beating You Down
Does anyone else feel a sense of impending doom in December, or is it just me? Maybe it’s PTSD from growing up in America with Christmas being the longest period of time I felt left out of the fun, mostly at school. While my kids’ friends are making their lists and checking them twice, I try to provide some options for my kids and solutions for myself so we feel like the season is just as much for us as anyone else.
Honor the celebrations of others as you would want them to honor yours. Practice and teach this, especially when your kids want to shatter the Santa story for their friends: “I’m glad you dislike something untrue, but we don’t need to say Santa’s not real. Thank you for trying to correct that. Save it for law school.”
Review the Eids when the kids pester you about why Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas. Ask them to trade an Eid for Christmas because they can’t have so many holidays a year or Mom must sell a kidney to fulfill their wish lists. This is not extortion or guilting, rather, an exercise in financial literacy because you’re a sensible, AMAZING mom, contrary to every belief your kids currently hold.
Volunteer to send in halal marshmallows and gummies for classroom sugar fests called “holiday parties” (peanuts are contraband but high fructose corn syrup is manna). Conduct a winter-based holiday craft and be THAT volunteer mom. Kids don’t know what Pinterest fails are yet, so they will think they nailed it every time. Ignorance is bliss.
Go to the ice skating rink, pay an obnoxious amount of money for your kids to wear stinky skates and hold onto the rail for 10 minutes before they fall and give up crying; then buy them overpriced hot cocoa water instead. Get bonus points for packing your own halal marshmallows in your Mary Poppins bag.
Sign up for a food packing project so you can brighten the holidays for someone else. Take the kids because they love the hairnets. Incidentally, you might have to wear one OVER your hijab, so take selfies sparingly. Toys for Tots is something the littles love to do because they understand what it’s like to open a package of underwear at Eid, and they will pick out awesome toys for Christmas-observing kids in need. Give them a budget so they don’t forget that you’re not made of money. Better yet, have them use their OWN money. Slam. Dunk.
Avoid the mall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and you can laugh all the way to the bank since you don’t even celebrate Christmas! Ahem, except you NEED those holiday sales to stock up for Eid (roughly 6 months away depending on the moon) because you’re still a sensible, fiscally savvy mom who snags a “great deal.” You’ll actually spend 10 times more than Christmas-celebrating people do this season. Cry and drink hot cocoa, but save the halal marshmallows for the kids. Remember, you’re not made of money.
Ask non-Muslim friends if you can attend a cookie exchange, Secret Santa (giving gifts increases love between people; it’s a Sunnah!), or playdate. You can get the kids out of the house during the winter break so that they can learn about other traditions. Also, because you don’t get to numb your senses with alcohol once the kids are home for an extended period of time, seek refuge in Allah AND in company.
If your kid wants to be in the holiday play, or auditions for it without your knowledge, don’t lament the loss of his religion. Acknowledge his need for fitting in and natural competitiveness, but you may SECRETLY pray he doesn’t get the part. Though if he does, consider saving “no” for the big stuff: drugs, dating, delinquency. If you think this is the worst crisis of faith ya’ll will have, hang onto your abaya. Hot cocoa will not serve you here, but permitting some autonomy will.
Remember that Christmas is less a religious holiday (12/25 is actually the birth of a pagan sun god, making it even less palatable to Muslims, with most Biblical evidence supporting Jesus’ birth in June/summer) and more an attack on our senses and pocketbooks. Don’t begrudge the people for loving Christmas, rather the retailers for milking it. Review with your kids: Islam taught and practiced the First Amendment way before the Founding Fathers cut their wooden teeth. Also remind them that Jesus is not copyrighted and his story and miracles belong to all of us. Smile, wish a “Happy Holiday,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Season’s Greetings” as it suits you, and take the kids to the masjid or winterfest as often as ya’ll can. You’re the maker of safe spaces for them and for your community, so if you’re feeling excluded, conflicted, or confused ANYWHERE, you won’t be able to help but pass that onto the kids. Make peace, make allies, and make merry.