Sometimes we start feeling self-conscious about the holiday seasons. I grew up in Chicago; every winter, I unwittingly get into that mood that we call “the Christmas Spirit.” I don’t know what it is. I suppose it’s the memories of winter break, being cozy in my blanket, or playing in the snow. I never celebrated Christmas, never had a Christmas tree, and doubt I ever will. I loved Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but those shows never inspired me to learn anything about Christianity. Rather, it was my own Islamic study that inspired me to learn about Christianity.
But, sometimes as parents we impose our insecurities upon our children. Out of fear that they feel insecure, we sometimes overcompensate by crossing boundaries. Thus, we will commonly try to make Christmas more Christmas-like for our kids (in some cases even getting Christmas trees). In other cases, we try to make Eid more Christmas-like. In either case, the problem is the same: we are afraid our children will feel embarrassed for being different. The real problem, however, is that we underestimate our children’s strength of character. Usually, it is not the child that feels insecure, but the parent. If the child feels insecure, it is likely that he or she is inheriting those feelings from the parent. That is the deeper problem of many of today’s parents: we are too often afraid of our children. If you have strong backbone, then (Insha Allah) your child will inherit it. If you are afraid because you see yourself as a tiny, powerless minority that seeks acceptance, then your child will inherit that.
Consider it: if you feel insecure about your child’s Christmas-time insecurities, do you feel the same a few weeks earlier, at Hanukkah? Probably not. Likewise, do you feel the same about Kwanza, or even Diwali? Probably not. This feeling of insecurity comes from being a minority population, especially when placed against a majority. But, our children will be as insecure as we make them. Teach your child that God will take care of him/her. Teach your child that the best of all humans was Muhammad –p. But, first you must believe it.
Of course, there are those of us who take the other extreme, and make Eid and such events as thoroughly boring and unhappy as is humanly imaginable. I can’t help such people. That stoicism is not our tradition either.
On the other hand, this is not an excuse to demean anyone else’s holiday. Christians celebrate Christmas. It is not the time to speak of the pagan origins or the capitalist status of today’s Christmas. Rather, treat it with respect because your peers, colleagues, and friends treat it with respect. Further, if you do not yet have non-Muslims in your family, it is a matter of time before you inevitably well. Most likely, you will have non-Muslims in your extended family within 10 years; inevitably, you will within 20 years. So, as a head start for those relationships, either we treat Christmas with respect, or we treat it with silence. But, some of us already have non-Muslims in our immediate family, and it becomes normal to celebrate Christmas. That is a different issue with its own dynamics.
But, when someone is wishing you “Merry Christmas,” regard it as a gesture of goodwill, and accept it with at least a “Thank you.”
Again, the overall concern for yourself is to have confidence in your own belief, and then Insha Allah, your children will inherit your confidence.
And God knows best.