Let’s see how many words I can do before my pinky gives up.
There’s this popular thread on Twitter right now from a Muslim man who is stuck here due to the pandemic and celebrating his first Christmas. He had some observations. It was really interesting and amusing to me. Then I read a blog by a Muslim woman who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but loves everything about it. Also fun, because she’s from Britain. and they have a few different things going on than us Yanks. Then I texted Sahar, my Muslim best friend, and asked what her deal was with Christmas…she always celebrated, as it turns out, so she wasn’t particularly useful to the conversation. (Sorry, chica.)
Anyway, this got me thinking, as things do. I grew up in a mostly white, mostly Christian community. Christmas was a given, in every single way. Here are some totally normal things from childhood: dragging an actual real tree into your house. Staying perfectly still while dressed as Mary during a live nativity scene. Knocking on doors and singing at people. Accepting cookies from damn near strangers.
All totally normal.
Now, I myself have always loved the topic of religion in every form, and I absorb material about world religions. Each concept fascinates me. But I wasn’t exposed to much growing up where I did. I knew one Jewish girl-and she was a friend of a friend. That’s how hard it was to come by a non-Christian. And Muslim? Forget it. Title of first Muslim I knew goes to Sahar at age 16…only 2 years after I learned what a Muslim even was.
Totally normal thing from my childhood: not telling your kid other religions exist.
Now, Jews I knew, without knowing them. I got pretty much every bible story ingrained in me from the time I was born, and Jews were featured prominently. As a child, I thought they were kind of our allies…brothers and sisters who worshipped the same God, but held differing beliefs over who His Son was. I thought this was a sensible disagreement. I remember some kids being all “Jews killed Jesus!” and I never understood that line of thinking because did not Jesus say “forgive them, for they know not what they do?” So, as a Christian, shouldn’t you just…do what he said?
In Religion class one year (because that was a totally normal thing: 40 minutes of bible study each day for a 1st grader,) we learned about Chanukah. It seemed so fun! Candles, and a game called dreidel, and 8 FLIPPING DAYS of presents. I liked the story about the oil in the lamp, too, so I didn’t really get why we Christians weren’t doing Chanukah.
This kicked off that world-religion love, but my favorite part has always been other religious (and cultural) holidays. My favorites are the Hindu’s Diwali and the El Dia de los Muertos for Spanish-Catholics.
Then, high school, and Sahar, and a whole world of culture and art and religion and food that was hidden from me. Wow.
It’s so funny to think that once upon a time my friend Meg told me her friend was Jewish and I thought “gee, that’s really neat.”
Today is the Winter Solstice. It really kicks off the holiday, in my opinion, which should not be celebrated for a whole month and a half (says she who put the tree up early this year.) My friend nick celebrates today, as he is Wiccan, despite being raised in the exact same Catholic classroom as me. When he told me his intentions to leave the church, I was still very much in it and was concerned for his immortal soul and whatnot. Now that I’ve managed to wash most of that Catholicism out of my hair, I can see with a much clearer eye that he went to what practices spoke to him, and that’s awesome and empowering. So today is his “Christmas,” so to speak, and I keep him very close to my heart on the first night of Winter, even though we are literally a country apart.
I don’t say Merry Christmas unless I know that person is Christian; I say Happy Holidays. You can call me a liberal hippie all you want. But there’s like a dozen holidays in December alone, and even though Christmas is the loudest solo artist out there, it’s not the only voice in the choir.
Now, I don’t know what Christmas Eve is looking like, so I may or not blog on Thursday. If I do not, then a very Happy Holiday to you and yours, whatever it is you are celebrating.
Oh oh oh! To my atheist friends: hope you have a chill Friday.
787 words…a little better, day by day.