If someone asked me why we celebrate Christmas I would have a couple of explanations. These are from my head, so excuse the misinterpretations, but this is honestly what I would say when someone says why do you celebrate Christmas I would say it is the time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Virgin Mary and Joseph gave birth to baby Jesus in a manger. We give presents representative of the presents the three wisemen brought to baby Jesus. It has become marketed and commercialized with the invention of Santa Claus has origins of greek and german descent, coming from Sinterklaus and Saint Nicholas. Coca Cola really brought the image of Santa to our minds. Christmas to me is a time for family to gather, eat good food and exchange presents to show your gratitude.
What do you wear? For family dinner you look nice, nothing too dressy, at church you dress up and then you wear pajamas Christmas morning when Santa comes. And if you are like my mom’s family, you wear the pajamas you opened the night before.
What do you eat? Turkey or Ham and all of the fixings but each family is different. My MN family does a Christmas eve brunch with egg bake and then dinner (stuffed shells always pop into my head, but it varies). Most families make their favorites. And there are more cookies and bars than you can imagine.
What kind of presents do you give? Whatever people want, or want to give! I can always guarantee underwear and gum from Santa. Kids usually get one super cool big present, Barbie dream house esque. But again, it varies.
What do you do? Play games as a family, catch up with the relatives you only see once a year, enjoy each others company, go to church, watch football, etc.
Well I asked my students to describe Eid to me. I asked what should I know about the holiday. I am very eager to learn about the Arabic culture and Islamic traditions. My kids do a great job of teaching me Arabic; I can now say a formal hello and response, good morning, hi, thank you, good night, and Happy Eid. However they sucked at teaching me about Eid.
I had my tutor group (14 year olds) write something on the board about Eid. I got $, money, dinars, we get moola. I asked what other presents they give and they said it is not a present holiday, it is only money. And only kids get money. I actually had one kid say, “Miss you are giving us money, yes?” I laughed in his face, I’m not sure how joking he was being. So I asked more direct questions:
What do you wear? Traditional clothes. Everyone does? No. Why do you wear traditional clothes (Abayas and Dishdash)? Because we are supposed to.
What do you eat? Machboos (a REALLY good yellow rice dish with chicken or lamb…or La7am as my kids spell it)
What do you do? We see our family, we play games, we get money, we go shopping.
Why do you do all of this? Because it is Eid.
I then asked my other classes….
Why do you celebrate Eid? Because of Hajj (trip to Mecca)
Why do people go to Mecca? Because it is holy.
God it’s like pulling teeth sometimes…
Now I am not a good Christian. I actually often question my faith or the word Christian. I do believe in a higher power. I think the world is a scary place without a little faith. However, my journey as a spiritual person is still in its beginning stages. Saying that, I was brought up knowing what Christmas was about. I don’t know if it’s America, the Christian faith or what…but I bet any Atheist can tell you the “story” of Jesus or Santa Claus. My students told me nothing about the Abraham sacrificing Ishmael to show his obedience to God. Or that God intervened with a sheep, which is why it’s the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday. Its why they eat lamb. Now Kristi’s sixth graders told her about the sacrificing of the sheep and that you give some to the poor. But my teenagers couldn’t? I was very frustrated. However some of you may be frustrated with my lack of Christmas knowledge. Maybe I’ll learn more Inshallah.