When it comes to holidays, our family focuses on those that we find in our religion (Islam). Since our holidays follow the lunar calendar, there will be years where they fall in the winter, but for about the next 10 years, that will not be the case. On the other hand, in the United States there’s a holiday showcased nearly nonstop over the winter months.
Now that I’m coming up to my 10th anniversary of becoming Muslim, I’ve found some ways to navigate the holidays without celebrating something we don’t believe in while also not bunkering down for 3 months out of the year.
Enjoy the Seasons
There’s nothing wrong breaking out the “Let it Snow” coffee mug or having snowflake window clings. We do make the distinction for items that have religious significance, but if it’s just weather-related. No harm, no foul.
Also, eat what’s in season! Baking pumpkin spice cupcakes and making chai nog brings a special something, just like the first rhubarb strawberry crisp in the summer. Enjoy the seasons, and all religions can agree that we are thankful for the bounties of each season.
And we can’t forget the clearance specials when the holidays are done! Since we don’t need lights for Christmas, we can get them 50% off or more for Eid (a Muslim holiday). Since we don’t need costumes for Halloween, we can pick them up for 50% off the next day for my kids to play dress-up. Next day clearance shopping is fun for kids, too. It helps them think of decorating for our own holidays creatively, and they get practice in using their money wisely (a value in all religious walks of life).
Make Our Holidays a Big Deal
The hardest part about not taking part in the same holidays that everyone else does (or at least it feels like it’s everyone) is that there’s nothing outside of our own home that indicates anything special is coming up for our own holidays. While it can feel like a lot of pressure to create excitement for your own holidays, after a few years of building that excitement with your kids, you find a routine. When I look back on growing up, I don’t think that I put in more work than my own parents did for Christmas. However if I don’t feel up to putting in that work, I don’t have the option of turning on the TV or going to the store for the kids to get excited for the upcoming holiday.
So, how do we make it special? First, lights! Again, with the clearance items, we pick up holiday lights after Christmas is over. We decorate our deck and hang up lights in our living room. For Ramadan, we have larger patio lights that we hang in the dining room and use only for when we eat suhoor, the pre-dawn meal.
Another important aspect to making it special is surrounding ourselves with reminders. Include holiday themed stories or movies in the daily routine, and let the kids make crafts and homemade decorations.
Explain Why We Don’t Celebrate
Without being disrespectful, we explain what elements of a given holiday are problematic for us as Muslims. It almost always boils down to the origin of the holiday or what it is specifically celebrating. We want to be understanding and accepting of other people’s beliefs, but it doesn’t mean we need to participate.
We also want to remind our children that the values honored during many holidays can be celebrated all year long. Thanksgiving is not the only time to be thankful. Mother’s Day is not the only time to get mom a gift. Birthdays are not the only time to celebrate life and achievements. We believe that in celebrating less holidays we are putting the focus on being more consistent with the values celebrated.
Create Family Traditions
We create our own religious holiday traditions, and since restaurants and stores are open for our holidays, we have taken advantage of that luxury. But beyond having Eid traditions, we have started some of our own “Christmas traditions.” A few years ago to our surprise, a Groupon for World of Warcraft caught my attention (I’d been a stanch WoW snob for years). Since it was mid-November, and with all the extra days off my husband had from Thanksgiving to New Years, I figured I’d give it a try. Even more to my surprise, I liked it and extended my subscription for an extra month past the Groupon deal. Now each year when the weather turns a little cold we ask each other, “Time for WoW?”
Do you have winter traditions that don’t follow the winter holidays?
Photo credit Aaron Wilson