On Christmas Eve six years ago, I boarded a plane to Saudi Arabia and haven’t been back during the holidays since. When I put my name in the pool for Christmas vacation this year, I raised some eyebrows. As a Muslim, I’m expected to leave Christmas vacation to other expatriates. This year, I decided I was going home for Christmas — whatever the cost.
As a revert, I’m often caught up in the debate about Muslims celebrating Christmas. There are many different opinions floating around about it, religious or otherwise, and I tend to ignore the majority. Every sack of hot air who preaches doom for ‘celebrating the festivals of the kaafir (non-believer) hasn’t got a freaking clue what it is like to be a revert with a non-Muslim family and Christmas memories in tow. There is a fine line that must be walked and the pressure of the tightrope is exhausting. Our obligations to God, our parents, our families, communities, our present selves, and our past selves are all carefully balanced on an undulating wave of compromise. Throw in a non-Western spouse for good measure and you’ve got yourself a party — of behavioral expectations and parameters set by yet another extrinsic force. It is enough to drive a woman (or man) mad!
So what’s a revert to do?
Well, I do admit my choices are not always conventional. I do my best to balance my spiritual obligations with the ones of this world. But I’m also rebellious as hell. And I will never let someone strip me of my identity. Yes, I am Muslim now, and I have been for nine years. All praises and thanks be to God. But, for the first twenty-one years of my life on earth, I wasn’t Muslim.
My parents showered me with infinite mercy when I was small — they raised me, supported me, and shaped me into the person that I am today. I am a Muslim because of them, not in spite of them. I honor my non-Muslim family and their traditions, because they honor me and mine.
Do I celebrate Christmas in the same way as I did before? Of course not. I don’t participate in any aspect of Christian worship — no church, nativity, or son of God.
But… you can bet your ass I’m sitting here in snowflake pajamas drinking a peppermint mocha. I bought it with a Starbucks gift card Santa left in my stocking.