I’ve yet to see an English or Western family get really caught up celebrating Eid or Diwali, not even ex-pats who live in India, Pakistan etc. I mean really going all out with the big family meal, presents, decorations and all of the anticipation that comes with it. And yet I know many Asian families who get really carried away with Christmas. And these are devout people who celebrate their own religious festivals at the appropriate times and attend places of worship regularly. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them celebrating Christmas if they choose to. But as someone I know recently asked, why are Asians celebrating Christmas if they are not Christian?
Ok well the obvious answer is how commercial Christmas has become. With that, it’s become much more accessible too. To the non-Christian world, Christmas is no longer a Christian festival. Most people have bought into the Coca-Cola version of Christmas and any real Christian meaning is put aside. It’s kind of a pick and mix thing: it’s choosing to celebrate the aspects of Christmas that have mass or secular appeal like family, gift-giving, decorations and parties without any of the spiritual meaning.
And it’s fair to say that people everywhere- not just Asians- now celebrate this kind of self-styled Christmas, rather than the Christian holy day that is Christmas.
But it’s when one considers how important religion, religious festivals and religious identity is to most Asians, that it seems contradictory that we would engage in any way with this Christian occasion. Writer and political commentator Sunny Hundal recently described himself as a ‘cultural Sikh’. So for those who see religion as a matter of culture and tradition rather than one of spiritual conviction, I can see that there is no conflict in celebrating Christmas in any form. What’s more, for those of the Eastern religions that believe all paths lead to God, there won’t be an issue.
Indeed, a Hindu friend I was talking to recently was telling me that in their household, Christmas is bigger than Diwali. They have a big family do, complete with turkey, presents and decorations. They whole-heartedly embrace the occasion and don’t have a problem either way that the day marks the birth of Jesus.
Certainly my Muslim friends are not as relaxed on the subject. Many of them won’t have a Christmas tree in the house or even give cards that say “Merry Christmas” on them, opting instead for those that say “Seasons Greetings”; or in keeping with the increasing Americanisation of our society, Happy Holidays. For them, taking Christ out of Christmas really works, because they can still be a part of the festivities, without feeling they have betrayed their religious beliefs in any way. They still have a meal together but argue that this is simply because everyone’s off work and school. I’m not sure I buy that reasoning but there you go.
In the end, it all comes down to personal choice and what works for you and your family. You won’t find any judgement from me! I get that Christmas means different things to different people, whether you choose to embrace it or not. I think if it’s a chance for families to get together, enjoy some good food and hopefully spend some quality time together then Christmas can’t be a bad thing. And if it’s not for you I respect your conviction in taking a stance for what you do believe in.
Either way, I hope the festive season brings some joy your way.
So, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Shub Naya Baras, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad, to you all!
Love British Asian Woman x