Christmas just passed, then Valentine’s Day and now Easter is just around the corner. Living in a predominantly non-muslim country, there is no denying the fact that we will be surrounded by holidays that we don’t celebrate or believe in throughout the year.
My parents’ attitude towards it was to avoid it. It was almost taboo. We didn’t participate in any community activities involving holidays we don’t celebrate. And that worked then because I was a first generation immigrant. Being a first generation immigrant, meaning the American in me came second to being a Pakistani. Those holidays and that culture didn’t resonate with me since most of my peers growing up didn’t celebrate them either.
But my daughter is primarily an American.
The culture she is surrounded by growing up will be the culture she identifies with. Avoiding the holidays isn’t a choice because these holidays do resonate with her. I know that I need to not only make an effort to insert some of our holidays into the American culture, but also make sure to embrace parts of the American culture.
In Ramadan, we make an effort to invite our non-muslim community to iftars and eid prayers. We take books about Islam to schools and ask them to be interested and embrace our holidays. We ask our non-muslim community to participate in our tradition with understanding.
But why is it that when we are asked to do the same thing, we shy away?
The best way to teach is to teach by example.
Why don’t we use that as our motto? The same way when we share our books about Ramadan, we are not asking any one to convert or denounce their own beliefs. When your child gets invited to a Christmas party, no one is asking them to believe in the Christian beliefs.
I know it is a very fine line when raising our children where we are the minority.
How do I make sure my child won’t just end up confused about what beliefs are ours and what are theirs?
Well, that is where parenting comes into play. You have to teach them. For each holiday, you have to make an effort to share your narrative on the holiday too. This way they are exposed to Islam and how it relates to other religions. They can be empowered to go into the community feeling confident in their beliefs and stance.
For example, let’s talk about the big one: Christmas. If you don’t acknowledge Christmas at home then the only narrative your child hears about Christmas is the one from others. But if instead, you talk to your child about the things you do and don’t believe in involving Christmas, they are able better able to differentiate their own beliefs from those of others.
Another example is Thanksgiving. There are just so many levels of lessons to be learned there! For the younger children you can focus on teaching them about “Alhumdolillah”. Teach them how to be grateful today and everyday to Allah for all his blessing. As they get older, you can start to expose them to the history of the holiday. Take time to show them how what happened was unislamic, and teach them the art of reflection and grattitude.
These are just a few examples. Essentially, we must teach our children how to live in a non-muslim community. We have to empower them with confidence in their own beliefs as it relates to the culture around them. My hope is that when my daughter is invited to a christmas party, she can walk in and respectfully appreciate and participate in their culture while staying true to her own beliefs.
I’d love to hear your opinions. How do you approach holidays that are different from your culture?