Festivities & Faith: Religion During the Holiday Season

As we enter December, Iqra reflects on what Christmas actually means, and how celebrating it can be different between faiths.

The minute that Halloween ends, it’s time to replace those jack-o-lanterns and dangling skeletons with Christmas trees and fairy-lights.

However, that’s not the case for those who don’t celebrate Christmas (or even Halloween for that matter). To say that Christmas has become more of a cultural – rather than a religious – celebration over time, would be to state the obvious as society is becoming more secular. A lot of people have forgotten that Christmas is a religious festival celebrating Christ’s birth – aside from when they’re watching their nieces/nephews acting in nativity plays or, dare I say it, the ‘Nativity!’ films. It’s funny how the religious sentiments are literally in the name – Christmas – yet Christmas isn’t really seen as a religious celebration anymore, as it has become so embedded in our culture.

As someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas themselves, I don’t relate to the importance of “decking the halls”, having a well-lit Christmas tree or having the obligatory turkey roast for dinner.

However, I do enjoy the special holiday menus and offers which roll in around this time of the year – gingerbread hot chocolate anyone? – and the beautiful Christmas lights around town, which really brighten up the holiday season when they come to life. And of course, no one can deny the magic of the Light Switch On, marking the start of the holiday season and all the Christmas ads you’re about to be bombarded with!

This brings me to the main attraction of Christmas: Christmas presents! ‘Tis the season of gifting, of giving and receiving – with the latter being more enjoyable. Now, as a non-celebrator, you would think I’d save a fair bit of money here, but the Black Friday deals really know how to extort money from me (then again, it might just be the hot chocolate addiction…).

It’s important to realise that the ‘Christmas spirit’ is not going to be felt by everyone. Even those who celebrate Christmas, should not have to feel like there’s a right way of celebrating Christmas.

You don’t have to ‘go all out’ for the holiday season, buying every unnecessary and useless ornament you can find, all in the name of the ‘Christmas spirit’. However, it’s also important to address how Christmas may overshadow other religious festivals, such as Diwali, Rabi-ul-Awal and Hanukah. When Halloween ends, Christmas and the holidays it brings (the glamour of which ends after a week of not getting out of your bed) is the only thing that anyone can think of. But let’s not forget that Christmas isn’t the only festival and be respectful of other faiths and festivities around this time.

Regardless of whether you’re celebrating Christmas or not, the holiday season gives us the chance to spend time with our loved ones; it brings families together and gives you the time to be grateful for what you have and to end the year on a good note. So take this time to relax and brace yourself, for the New Year is coming.

Iqra Arshad