By Megan Jackman
Thoughts on Christmas: Holiday for all?
That time only comes around once a year. A time to hope for something, a time to spend with family, a time to meditate on something besides work, school or stress.
If you have grown up in the western world, you will probably assume that I’m
referring to Christmas. Christmas is, by definition of Nelson Canadian Dictionary,
a Christian holiday. Whether you are a Christian or not and, in turn, whether
Christmas is a major holiday of your faith or not, Christmas-time likely takes
on some form of celebration in your life.
Christmas is around us everywhere. From the onset of November (and often before) you will be hard pressed to turn on the television or simply step outside your door without being reminded that “Santa is on his way” or, “the holidays are just around the corner, have the best Christmas ever ... see in store for details!”
Recently a friend of mine and current MUN student from Bangladesh, asked me about my favourite time of year. I spilled the guts of Christmas, pouring over tree-hunting excursions and tasty food. And, although she has been living away from her home country for just over a year, I was impressed by her wealth of “Christmas knowledge.”
After a half hour of Christmas claver and ample accounts of sugar plums and stockings to fill her brain three times over, I asked what her favourite holiday was. Ramadan was her reply. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I once learned of this Muslim holiday in high school, I fell short when asked how much I knew about Ramadan.
The conversation I had that day got me thinking. Did my friend know so much about Christmas because she had been well educated on the major religions of the world? Or was it because Christmas is portrayed, to the rest of the world, as another image of western society.
Likely, I thought, it is the latter. Christmas, to anyone who has access to seeing the world through the eyes of mass media, is much more than a Christian holiday these days. It may not be intentional, but many of us seem to get caught up in the Christmas hype.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year. During that time, Muslims abstain from food for a set period of each day and they also refrain from intimate relations. This religious holiday concludes with a feast and an exchanging of many gifts, much like Christmas.
Very similar to Christmas indeed, but not identical by any stretch of the imagination.
So why, if non-Christians celebrate Christmas, don’t non-Muslims celebrate Ramadan? Now, I know some may find offence in that question. But, consider it: society has adopted Christmas as their own, weaving it into sales schemes and molding it to suit our lifestyles. But why haven’t we adopted Ramadan in the same way?
Christmas, even three decades ago, involved strict adherence to traditions but over time those “rules” wore off as they became more and more inconvenient to modern life. My point is, we don’t celebrate Ramadan because it’s not a convenient holiday to claim. Sure it would be great to receive gifts twice a year but not a whole lot of people would be sold on fasting!
Judaism, Hinduism and Sikhism also have major religious holidays involving celebration of some sort. Indeed, like Christianity, these are among the world’s major religions. But again, non-believers don’t generally participate in those holidays.
I’m not startled or outraged that Christmas has become what it has while many other religions reserve celebration rights for believers only. But when I really get to thinking about the whole thing it does spark some curiosity. Which brings me to my pseudo-conclusion.
I’ve heard some argue that Christmas is a Christian holiday, they insist that non-Christians have no right to celebrate Christmas without upholding the beliefs of the Christian faith.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do think, however, that it’s worthwhile to consider and appreciate the positive results of Christmas despite religious convictions or lack thereof. People make more donations to the less fortunate, some children get their first taste of happiness all year, and homes are opened to friends and family for more than a quick eat and run. If it makes the naysayer happy, perhaps we could refer to Christmas as “season-of-Santa” or “holiday-for-all-even-non-believers.”
Were Ramadan or Hanukkah to take on the role that Christmas now plays in our society, I’m sure I would feel exactly the same.
So, whether this short span of cheer and kindness is simply an emotional high from the warm glow of Christmas tree lights, the effect of holiday tunes on the radio, or Santa’s inspiring generosity rather than a reflection of one’s commitment to the Christian faith makes no difference in my mind.