Explaining to three year old about not celebrating christmas

(89 Posts)
alteredimages Sat 30-Nov-13 12:47:50

Hello

We are a Muslim family living in France, I am from a white British background, DH is Egyptian and we have a 3 year old DD who is in the petite section of maternelle, which is like full time nursery in the UK.

Christmas is coming up and this is the first year DD has really taken notice. She has all ready decorated a christmas tree at school and made decorations and has taken a real shine to father christmas, though I don't know if she realises he brings presents.

I am struggling to explain to her that as Muslims we don't celebrate Christmas without conveying the impression that those who do are bad or wrong. All my side of thw family do celebrate and sometimes send presents for DD, though we don't tell her the presents are for Christmas. On the other hand, I don't want her to feel like she's getting a raw deal and that being a Muslim is second best. Anyone with any experience of this kind of thing or any ideas how to explain to a very hyper three year old?

Kendodd Sat 30-Nov-13 12:57:35

I know it's not what you're asking but, I'd just celebrate Christmas. I know the Christians may not like this but IMO Christmas has become a secular festival, it's open to everyone.

I would describe us as culturally Christian, we don't believe in god but we love Christmas. I also try to celebrate other religious (and non) festivals as well, it just gives you more things to celebrate! This might be easier for me than you though because I'm without religion.

Also you have eid and ramadan isn't that like Christmas every day!

VashtaNerada Sat 30-Nov-13 13:03:53

I think you just have to say that everyone has different celebrations and isn't it great we're all different. And then really talk up your own festivals!!

17leftfeet Sat 30-Nov-13 13:05:14

You can explain that you celebrate eid instead, 3 is just getting old enough to understand that people are different

I'm surprised a French nursery is doing so much about Christmas to be honest as my perception is that education is secular? I have no experience of the french system btw

SirChenjin Sat 30-Nov-13 13:05:17

What Ken said.

We're not Christians, but we celebrate Christmas and enjoy the family time, present giving, eating copious amounts, etc etc. I don't think you need to exclude Christmas altogether, just take the nice bits and turn it into a holiday festival.

Btw - when you say you have a white British background, does that mean that you converted to Islam when you married? If so, then I think it's perfectly acceptable to celebrate Christmas in whatever form you want as a nod to your childhood.

kingbeat23 Ecuador Sat 30-Nov-13 13:05:40

Christmas is a time to get together a and enjoy each other in a relaxed way. To be thankful you're alive and have each other in your lives. At least that's what it is for me.

This will be my first Christmas alike with just DD. Have been lp for 3 years but usually spend it with family. This year all my family are spread out across the place. (I'm secretly quite happy about this and can't wait) DD is just learning about the nativity at age 4 but I don't think she'll understand it.

As a person raised Jewish but now a non believer, I don't think Christmas is for me but she believes in Santa and gets presents.

I use the phrase "some people believe a lot" just as I did during Eid, Diwali and Yom Kippur.

alteredimages Sat 30-Nov-13 13:45:33

Wow, thanks for a the quick responses. I thought this was a low traffic board! smile

I hear what you are all saying about going with the flow and just celebrating Christmas, but we are quite observant (eating only halal food, prayers etc) so in our case it would just feel like hypocrisy. We are also planning to be in Egypt long term and I think being clear about cultural and religious identity, whilst being open and discussing, is really important for children from mixed backgrounds. I've seen a lot of identity crises and hope to avoid this for my daughter, quite apart from Egyptian society being incredibly judgemental and closed minded, especially with girls.

Schools here are secular, but I think the view here is that Christmas is as much a cultural festival as it is religious and so appears on that basis. I also think it would be a shame to prevent the enjoyment of the vast majority for the sake of a few.

Our Eid celebrations failed a bit this year as they came within a couple of days of DD's birthday so I am pretty sure she thought all the fuss was for her.grin

I suppose I really am making a mountain out of a molehill but DD is so sensitive and I can just imagine her being crushed if she found out all the kids got presents except her, and thinking it was somehow her fault.sad It should be beside the point, but as she is very fair and blue eyed people wouldn't know she's not Christian to look at her so I can imagine well meaning strangers asking what she got for Christmas, etc.

Sorry for the essay, I am just thinking out loud. Perhaps the best compromise is just to give hersome presents because it is winter time and she is on holiday. Or for hogmanay!

SirChenjin Sat 30-Nov-13 14:40:26

You can be observant of your own religion whilst recognising others and celebrating them, esp the national ones of the country you currently live in. It's not hypocritical - if anything, it opens minds to other cultures and beliefs.

If your side of the family do celebrate Christmas then presumably you celebrated when you were younger. I'm just wondering why that's not something that your family now can integrate into its own traditions, and why being Muslim (or indeed any new faith) has to mean you shun all previous beliefs or traditions?

alteredimages Sat 30-Nov-13 16:06:58

Sorry, I don't think I explained myself very well. I don't think it is hypocritical to celebrate different holidays generally, just specifically in my case. Islam is quite clear that there are two religious holidays in Islam, Eid al fitr and Eid al adha, and that the celebration of others is not permitted. If I am strict on. observing other tenets of Islam, then to ignore that one would entail picking and choosing and be inconsistent.

I don't believe that converting to Islam means I have to shun British traditions, but it does mean that I cease to celebrate other religious festivals. There are lots of British things I do with my daughter and I make sure to teach her about my culture but however some interpret it, Christmas is a Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ who Muslims recognise as a prophet but not as divine. For me it makes no more sense to celebrate Christmas than it does to celebrate Diwali since I don't (and never did) believe in its basic premise, if you see what I mean?

kelda Sat 30-Nov-13 16:14:56

Of course it's perfectly acceptable for you to explain to her that many people enjoy Christmas, but it is not your feast to celebrate. Emphasise the fact that you have the two Eids to celebrate.

We live in a high muslim area, and most of those families do not celebrate Christmas. We are a Christian family, and to us Christmas is a Christian celebration. We do not celebrate Eid. Every now and again, my children are invited to share their Eid celebrations, which is wonderful. My children know that different families have different festivals.

SirChenjin Sat 30-Nov-13 16:21:23

I do see what you mean, although I struggle with it -sorry. We do not follow any particular religion (although we are all christened in the Church of Scotland), which means that we are free to celebrate all - and for me that freedom is very important. The DCs schools celebrate the major religious festivals which means that we are now aware of Diwali etc and have cards etc to celebrate them. I I lived in an Islamic country I would not shut my family off from its religious ceremonies but would find a way to interpret and integrate them into my family life to some extent.

Although Christmas is obviously a Christian celebration, it has become increasingly non-secular and so a holiday festival in some form to allow your DD to enjoy the celebrations such as the present opening that you and your family did seems perfectly reasonable - it doesn't have to be a 'celebration' of another faith (although that seems a shame) but it can be an acknowledgement of 50% of her heritage, surely? I have friends from all over the globe, and their children enjoy a mish mash of cultural and/or religious celebrations throughout the year to a greater or lesser extent - it's something that is defining their family and tradition, and it's lovely to see smile

EvilRingahBitch Sat 30-Nov-13 17:06:42

Given your stance, the only possible answer is "lots of people celebrate Christmas, but because we are Muslim we celebrate different festivals which are also fabulous" and then go on to talk about the special festivals that she celebrates but her French culturally Christian friends don't. She may not be entirely happy about it, but it's a simple enough concept.

Eventually (though not at age 3) you may have to face the much more difficult question of why Muslim friend X gets a tree and a visit from Santa while she doesn't - answering that question without implying that X's parents are bad people is tricky, but it's essentially the same conversation as the "All my friends' parents let them play Call of Duty" one.

Just as an alternative - could you give her a present from the prophet Jesus?

MaeMobley Sat 30-Nov-13 17:15:38

Hi OP, it is hard. It will be so much easier when you live in Egypt. We had (still have to a certain extent) the same problem but in our case we are Jewish.

We deal with the whole xmas thing by making a bigger deal of Chanukah`, emphasising the positives of Judaism generally and explaining the different cultures/religions/celebrations.

We are lucky that there are a lot of Muslim kids in our school so although they are the only Jews our DC are not he only ones who do not eat Haribos, pork, etc.

I am also a convert and have to admit that I still miss Xmas. However celebrating it would feel wrong.

BettyBotter Sat 30-Nov-13 17:20:55

Dh comes from a Muslim country that has pretty much adopted the tacky non-religious side of Christmas wholesale. The only difference is that it's all seen as New year celebrations. So there are trees, presents, decorations in the shops etc etc but they are all called New Year trees.

I spent several years in vain trying to explain to baffled friends that Christmas and new year were 2 different days/ festivals. Most people there had the impression that for some strange reason we celebrated new year on 25th in the UK.

Could you somehow incorporate the French traditions with a non religious new year interpretation?

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 30-Nov-13 17:26:20

I would celebrate it as a cultural holiday. Her school is secular and they're celebrating it so why can't you? If you don't feel comfortable having Christmas call it 'Winterval' or something.

You can explain to her that it derives from a Christian festival, but is now a secular event (in words that a 3 year old can understand!). You live in France and will celebrate their cultural festivals. When you live in Egypt you can celebrate theirs.

I'm an atheist and love Christmas. You can have the whole thing without even a mention of Jesus if you wish. There are secular decorations, songs, stories etc.

adiia Sat 30-Nov-13 17:32:34

same here,we dont celebrate.our kids accept that we celebrate eid,not christmas,and other people celebrate christmas and not eid,'cos people are different and believe different things.same for "why cant we have a christmas tree" etc.answer is,'cos we dont celebrate christams whilst our friends x,granma,the neighbours do.nothing to do with someone being a bad person or not.

TheArticFunky Sat 30-Nov-13 17:44:11

Dh's work colleague is Muslim and originally from Egypt and since they have had children they have a low key Christmas celebration. The children are told that they are just doing it for fun and don't observe any of the religious aspects. They have a tree, a couple of pressies , and a traditional Egyptian meal with with crackers and party. They are very sociable people and I think Dh would like an invite there as the Egyptian food sounds tastier than Turkey!

Blatherskite Sat 30-Nov-13 17:45:56

I don't agree that Christmas is a christian celebration in any thing but name. In the UK at least, there has been a mid-winter festival all the way back to the druids. Much of what we think of as being 'Christmas' has just been adopted by the christian faith. As an Atheist household, we celebrate on that basis.

Could you look back into mid-winter traditions that aren't christian - christmas trees, feasts, presents, even carol-ing isn't originally christian - and use some of those so that she doesn't feel left out?

nicename Sat 30-Nov-13 17:46:24

If you live in a predominantly christian country then you can't really pretend christmas isn't happening. You will be teaching a small child "it's 'us' and 'them' - and they are wrong" from an early age. You really don't want a 3 year old announcing the the nursery that Santa isn't real! Multiculturalism means that we learn about other religions, make allowances where necessary, and acknowledge observances.

My religious (muslim) in-laws celebrate christmas (any excuse for a celebration really) as well as eid, norooz, new year, ramadan, you name it. Even chinese new year and divali get a special cake and activities for the children. They pray, eat halal, don't drink etc but see the improtance of embracing the culture in which they live (none born here) and that of those friends, colleagues, neighbours etc in a sort of "brotherhood of man" way. Those in the ME even send me a christmas card and I have been asked to send over some cds of christmas songs for the kids.

Christmas is very much a family winter festival these days. Focus on that. Jesus' birthday (well, it wasn't in december anyway, was it?) is a by-the-way these days, and as you point out, is seen as a prophet in Islam anyway.

ummunono Sat 30-Nov-13 17:48:58

I'm in the exact situation, I have a 3 yo daughter who is also talking about Christmas a lot at the moment. I just keep telling her that we don't celebrate Christmas, we celebrate Eid. She remembers getting gifts, sweets, balloons...for Eid so she is getting used to the idea. I don't understand this obsession that you should celebrate Christmas because you live in Europe. I am also a convert and as a practicing Muslim it would feel wrong for me to celebrate it. My family know to not get her gifts. It is anything but a secular/cultural celebration as would be say Remembrance day. I am actually of a French background and worked in maternelles, so I imagine it must be harder there that in the UK, because France is ANYTHING but secular. Every school is associated to a "aumonerie" (chaplain), I was made to feel 'different' for not attending catechism after school, and I was raised in a multicultural area of Paris. Christmas, Easter...are made a huge fuss of and prepared weeks in advance with special activities and menus. Schools even serve fish every Friday, as per the Catholic tradition. Anyway I think you should just keep telling her that you don't celebrate Christmas because you are Muslims, and maybe plan a nice family activity for that day (as you would do for a normal bank holiday), so she has something to look forward too? I'm also trying to make Jumuah a special day for her (nice meal plus a little surprise such as Kinder egg or similar), so there is always something coming up soon :-).
I also totally agree that it is confusing for children not to have a secure identity. My mother's family always celebrated Christmas although they are atheist Jews, and that made me feel like being Jewish was somehow shameful/ not of interest. You don't need to sacrifice your own traditions and values in order to be a valuable member of society.

cakebar Sat 30-Nov-13 17:51:27

The muslim people that I know do celebrate Christmas. Well, they get presents, Christmas dinner, family get together, tree etc anyway. I asked one about it and she said that it was celebrated by all in her home country (where there are lots of christians too).

DoesZingBumpLookBigInThis Sat 30-Nov-13 18:00:40

if I was a muslim I wouldn't celebrate Christmas. why would I?

I'm a Christian so I don't celebrate Hanukkah or Diwali or Chinese New Year or what have you.
again, why would I?
they have nothing to do with me.

I do not agree with the idea of multi-religion and mixing stuff up.
decide what you believe in and stick to it.

Aaliyah1 Sat 30-Nov-13 18:12:50

I would explain your beliefs as they stand, that you celebrate Eid and not Xmas.
I'm muslim and my family have never celebrated Xmas but at the same time have never stopped us taking part in it at school etc.
Xmas is also a time where most people have time off work and kids are off school so it is a nice time to et together as a family. Maybe you could do something nice together as a family, making the most of the holidays, so she still feels like she's had a nice time and has something to talk about with friends etc.
We always have a family dinner as it's an excuse to get together. What I wish my parents had done is to have made a bigger deal of Eid. It's always been a non event for us hmm
You said you'll be living in Egypt so she will get the rich cultural experience of your own holidays/festivals. I honestly wouldn't worry too much. smile

Jinsei Sat 30-Nov-13 19:23:05

Well, it's your choice really, OP. Most of the Muslim families we know do something at Christmas, as do the Sikhs, the Hindus and so on. As far as they're concerned, it's a cultural celebration that they're joining in with, that has no religious significance for them at all. If I were in your shoes, I'd be inclined to find some way of celebrating at this time of year that I felt comfortable with, so that your dd can feel like a part of what is going on. But if you don't feel comfortable doing that, fair enough. Incidentally, does your DH feel the same way?

Whatever you decide to do, you probably need to accept that your dd will question it as she gets older, and she may or may not be satisfied with your explanation - that's the bit that is beyond your control. I think it can be very hard to grow up feeling different from your peers, and if it's important to you to live in a certain way, you need to be prepared to deal with her feelings about this. That doesn't
mean you're wrong to live according to what you believe - far from it - but it may make life a bit more complicated!

I expect it will be much easier when you get to Egypt. How old will your dd be when you plan to move?

ModreB Portugal Sat 30-Nov-13 19:29:31

IIRC, Jesus is recognised as a holy "person" in Islam as well as Christianity. Could you explain to her that it is a celebration of the birth of a "Holy Man" who is also a "Holy Man" in your religion?

adiia Sat 30-Nov-13 19:53:46

OP I think mumsnet is not the best place to ask imo.all this obsession that we shouldn't do anything different.I don't need to follow someone elses ways to show I respect them.I can respect christian/jew/atheist etc without taking part/following their ways.but then again,not pretending there's Santa is akin to child abuse apparently.nothing wrong in teaching kids that people are different.and mid-winter celebration come from paganism don't they?that would make me even more likely NOT to celebrate them,as monotheism is the one big idea islam is based on.

ummunono Sat 30-Nov-13 21:34:01

It would probably be very confusing to tell her about the birth of Jesus at that age because many practicing Muslims don't celebrate birthdays, prophet or otherwise, and because they don't believe Christmas is related to Jesus' birth anyway. 'Christmas' was not practiced by early Christians and Muslims believe Jesus was born in Spring or Summer, not December.

SirChenjin Sun 01-Dec-13 09:37:48

Adiia - it's hardly an 'obsession' hmm

rosiedays Sun 01-Dec-13 21:53:49

Hi op.
Wow I've been having the same conversion today smile I've been married to an egyptain (Muslim) )for 7years we now have a 4month old dd elhumdulla.
He has no concept of the affection and love that i feel for Christmas. Although we are Muslim Christmas is part of MY family therefore my daughter's heritage. We have not fully decided what will happen this year (we will be in uk) ) but we will be acknowledging it in some way. My family have the right to enjoy my dd at their special time as much as his do at Eid. It's a very personal family decision that all cross cultural family's have to make their own call.

awe Sun 01-Dec-13 22:03:16

Do you expect her to go to school and study on france's independence day because you are not planning on staying in the country? What is the difference really? (Please no religous lectures, the responses before me have dealt with those)

Gilberte Sun 01-Dec-13 22:18:27

If I lived in a non christian country where christmas wasn't celebrated I don't think I would do much at Christmas. It would seem strange to celebrate it if I had to go to work anyway and no one else was celebrating.

However, if I lived in India I would like to think I would celebrate Diwali as I would like to join in and be part of my adopted country's culture.

Similarly, if I lived in Egypt I would like to think I would take part in Eid celebrations.

There's a member of staff at my work who brings in treats every Eid. I have no problem eating them. Similarly another colleague brings in the most delicious sweets to celebrate Diwali. I enjoy them.

I think they will both probably go the staff Christmas lunch. I can't imagine they would stay working in the office because they aren't Christians.

Gilberte Sun 01-Dec-13 22:23:01

However, I should add i'm not here to say what you should do. I support your choice to do what you feel right by your religion and your family but expect that your DD may feel excluded by her peers etc in the short term by your decision. As she grows older she will be able to understand the reasons behind your decision and one day she will presumably be able to decide for herself.

Totallyunited Sun 01-Dec-13 23:04:09

There is absolutely no need to celebrate Xmas if you are uncomfortable with it. We are a jewish family and our Christmas day consists of a turkey lunch with crackers - that's it. Father Christmas doesn't come, we don't have a tree, it would never occur to me to buy advent calendars, it's just not on our radar at all. We have a family lunch on Boxing Day because it's a bank holiday and everyone is around but that's it.

We simply explain to the children that we have our own holidays, it's lovely to enjoy Christmas e.g sing songs, look at the lights but we have our own lovely festivals and Christmas isn't one of them. It is somewhat easier for us as generally Chanukah falls around christmas time so the children still receive lots of presents and are easily pacified but even if they didn't then it wouldn't change how we celebrate.

MoreThanChristmasCrackers Sun 01-Dec-13 23:12:19

I know this isn't what you asked neither but please on behalf of all the dc who were at school with my dc will you teach your child not to spoil it for everyone else.
A Muslim family at dds last school, the dd told all the class of 6/7 year olds that FC/Santa were their parents, they didn't believe and the dc that did were idiots.
You are right to ask for suggestions it can't be easy when all your dc peers are celebrating.
I would just say we all celebrate something different, believe in different things/Gods etc. Each year add some age appropriate info.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sun 01-Dec-13 23:42:34

I appreciate that you see Christmas as a Christian festival but there's a very good thread here about precisely why this is not so. Please do give it a good read, and then you might be able to come to terms with marking it in a way that your daughter will appreciate.

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 07:43:41

That is so mean! The parents mustve said something similar to the kids - such contempt!

innoparticularorder Mon 02-Dec-13 10:10:26

Morethen...don't be ridiculous. Just because the child who told your dd Santa wasn't real was a Muslim the OP must teach her dc not to do the same! Never heard such a stupid request on MN!

adiia Mon 02-Dec-13 12:27:50

Maybe you shouldn't lie to your childre,then no risk of someone telling them the truth.kids shouldn't have calling other kids idiot obv,but u can't pretend that everyone join in into the "secret".anyway the point isn't that christmas is a christian festivity(even if its not really),but that its not a islamic festivity.so OP and many other muslim don't want to celebrate it.can't see how saying that your muslim neughbour/collegue/friend do celebrate has anything to do with it,many muslim drink,don't pray etc,doesn't mean that's the right way to practice islam.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 12:35:36

Maybe you shouldn't lie to your childre (sic)

Which is why I don't follow any religion.

Branleuse Mon 02-Dec-13 12:39:45

my brother and SIL are muslim, and while they dont actively celebrate christmas, they still enjoy some of the cultural part of it. My mum still gets them christmas presents, and theyve never refused, and they get my mum something.

How about telling her that you dont really celebrate it in your house, but youre glad shes having fun with it at school. Surely she'll get christmas presents from your side of the family?

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 12:44:35

Branleuse - the OP said "All my side of thw family do celebrate and sometimes send presents for DD, though we don't tell her the presents are for Christmas". Giving her the presents and telling her they are from Granny and Granpa etc who do celebrate Christmas seems reasonable, surely?

Branleuse Mon 02-Dec-13 12:47:44

oh.

Just tell her theyre christmas presents.

Tbh, im surprised the french school doing much for christmas. I thought they were secular, and France has a massive muslim population

HerrenaHarridan Mon 02-Dec-13 13:27:33

Maybe you could send dd to her maternal gps over the holidays smile

Totallyunited Mon 02-Dec-13 13:40:55

I don't understand why there are posters on here saying that the OP should celebrate Christmas and trying to convince her that it's not fair on her child not to. It's perfectly ok to live in Britain, to be British and not celebrate Christmas. It doesn't mean that our children are deprived, it doesn't mean that they are outcasts at school. I agree she probably shouldn't lie about where the presents come from but It would feel totally wrong for me to buy into the whole Christmas thing as ultimately regardless of oh how it develops, in my eyes Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and as a Jew that goes against everything I believe in. Taking part in school celebrations, doing the panto thing, buying gifts for good friends who aren't jewish is all fine but absolutely no way is Santa ever coming to my house, I can't describe it but it's just totally wrong for our family. My children absolutely accept that we don't have Christmas like most people. I think that if you don't have a strong non Christian religion then it's impossible to understand but honestly, our children aren't deprived. We have the most wonderful celebrations in our religion, and lots more of them than in the Christian character. By keeping our traditions by observing Christmas from the sidelines without participating fully I feel that we have the best of both worlds.

ChippingInLovesChristmasLights Mon 02-Dec-13 13:47:02

Christmas is a Pagan celebration that the Christians hijacked and renamed! You don't need to believe in, nor celebrate, the religious side of it at all to enjoy Christmas.

I don't think that setting her apart from the cultural norm is good for her at all - why set up a 'them' & 'us' situation?

We celebrate all kinds of things that the children are interested in. Just recently we went to a Michaelmas celebration as they were having one locally and some of the kids (German) friends were going. We made lanterns and learnt about their celebration. We have done the same with lots of other things - it is good for children to learn about other cultures and festivities.

Enjoying your childhood traditions (tree/presents/family time/santa) with your DD is not celebrating another religious holiday - you don't have to go to church, tell the christian christmas story & make it about the birth of Jesus to take part in Christmas - it's not.

HerrenaHarridan Mon 02-Dec-13 13:52:41

I disagree, my mum was brought up without Christmas and still (in her 40s) get very upset talking about when all the other kids were going to parties and she was excluded angrysad

I'm not in anyway religious by my dd is brought up to recognise a wide range of different religious festivals.

To be honest my biggest problem with this whole scenario is shoe on the other foot.

Would a converted to Christian family be advised not to acknowledge eid or Ramadan? 10 to the penny they round be advised to give some sort of a nod to one half of their families cultural background.

Totallyunited Mon 02-Dec-13 13:57:11

Yes but I am not saying exclude from parties or anything, my children can go to Christmas parties, they do secret Santa at school and send Christmas cards to their friends as well as receiving them, my DD is in her school carol concert next week, they sing carols in the car, we go and look at the lights in Oxford Street every year and we visit friends to see their trees and celebrate with them. But, we don't decorate our house or have Father Christmas. That's very normal in our community and our children don't feel excluded, we not ignoring Christmas, we are just not participating fully into it just as I didn't as a child.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 13:57:50

What 'posters' ie me have been saying is that, given that the OP is a convert to Muslim as she is now married to one, was raised in a household that celebrated Christmas, who now has a DD who has an extended family who still celebrate Christmas and who is looking for ideas on how to explain why they don't celebrate Christmas, rather than ignoring 50% of her DD's heritage and hiding presents, look to celebrate it in another form eg Winter Festival and integrating that into their own family tradition.

On a very simplistic level, DH and I did Christmas slightly differently as children. When we got married and had our own children we adapted and merged these traditions, as have my friends who have married people from completely different countries with their own customs, festivals, etc.

I'm confused as to what a multicultural family would only want to celebrate (or acknowledge) 50% of their culture. Even if you don't worship at that time it should be perfectly possible to say "look what Auntie Jean/Nadia has sent you for Christmas/Eid/whatever", make a card for them, or something - esp. if you live in a country which does observe a particular festival.

Totallyunited Mon 02-Dec-13 14:02:41

I agree that it's odd not to acknowledge Christmas when half the family celebrate and to deny where gifts have come from but equally, I don't think that there's a need for the OP to have Christmas in the home although I would have thought that celebrating at the grandparents and understanding that grandma and grandpa celebrate this and we celebrate that but it's all lovely would be a better potion.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 14:12:16

The OP didn't want Christmas in her house - which is why other suggestions for winter festivals and similar have been put forward so that 50% of her DDs heritage can still be recognised at some level. I know that if I had married someone from another culture or religion then I would be more than happy to integrate and blend those customs into my family, and vice versa - I've seen it working really well in other families, so it can and does work.

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 14:14:43

I'm confused as to what a multicultural family would only want to celebrate (or acknowledge) 50% of their culture.

That's converts/born agains for you...

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 14:20:03

It's the idea that one religion or culture should take precedent over another that really doesn't sit right with me. I would find it very difficult to accept that any of my DCs should marry someone who would require them to relinquish their entire background, culture, customs or heritage sad

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 14:29:46

How do you square it with the rest of your family - parents, siblings... the kids cousins etc? It's hardly teaching them tolerance is it?

"When mummy was little Santa came to visit with toys and we had carols and turkey and crackers and a tree... we had a lovely family time. That's all crap and that side of the family are all going to hell because they are completely wrong in what they do, believe, think, eat, drink...."

As I have said before, half of my family are muslim and they do 'do' Christmas (with other celebrations too). They have never said anything against other religions, and respect people of faith.

Its maybe cultural to refuse to have anything to do with any other culture/religion - some parts of the world are incredibly intolerant than others when it comes to religion. Some wouldn't even accept the OP as a 'real' muslim.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 14:36:08

The OP has already described Egypt - "quite apart from Egyptian society being incredibly judgemental and closed minded, especially with girls".

Why, why, why would anyone want to move their child to a culture that they see as close minded and judgemental, esp. with women? confused. I'd be running for the nearest hill...

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 15:04:18

It certainly wouldn't be top of my list of places to emigrate to, with the political situation as it is. All of the women I know who have visited there have had some pretty awful stories to tell of being pestered, goosed/groped, propositioned, insulted. I'd be wary of taking a daughter there (esp as the op states that her dd is pale/euroi in looks).

cornflakegirl Mon 02-Dec-13 15:04:21

SirChenjin from the OP's posts, it sounds like she has embraced the tenets of Islam and decided that means she needs to put aside some things she used to do, not that her DH has required her to do that.

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 15:23:26

So where does multiculturalism fit in? Or does her new found religion trump that?

She will find it a different kettle of fish living in a muslim country. Not the religion but the culture. She will for ever be seen as 'the foreigner' and her children will be foreigners too.

I speak as a foreigner married to an even more foreigner.

WallyBantersJunkBox Mon 02-Dec-13 15:34:24

Taking Islam aside - and referring your comments about moving to Egypt.

I've spent several Christmas periods in Egypt. There is a substantial population of Coptic Christians that very much do celebrate Christmas albeit not in the commercial way that we do in the UK. And there are plenty of inflatable Santa's wilting in the heat!

So moving to Egypt won't "eliminate" the issue so to speak.

I also feel very sad that you seem to be rubbing out half of your heritage.

cornflakegirl Mon 02-Dec-13 15:40:30

Multiculturalism doesn't mean we all have to celebrate every festival. It means it's okay for other people to be different - the very thing the OP said she was looking to establish for her daughter.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Mon 02-Dec-13 15:47:04

There are many Muslims living in non Muslim countries that don't celebrate Christmas. Your DC will get used to whatever is the norm in your family. We've never celebrated Christmas because Christmas is a religious festival even if some atheists and other non Christians consider it to be secular. Therefore, to be a Muslim and still observe the Christian festival does feel hypocritical.

We have gifts on other occasions throughout the year and not only on festivals. The children accept this and are more than happy with the arrangement. We don't have any other special traditions at this time of the year either although we do enjoy the holiday itself. This is what the family are used to and it suits us best this way.

That is not to say we are completely ignorant of Christmas. We acknowledge it with friends and neighbours around us and extend festive greetings to them. We buy gifts for a few neighbours who seem particularly lonely at this time of the year and occasionally send cards out. But we really give at Eid time. Not necessarily presents, but we give a lot of food out. I bake and cook a lot at Eid time and we share this with other non Muslim families too. It works well for all of us- we give to them at Eid, they give to us at Christmas. I can imagine it would be a bit of a pain for them if we expected them to bake some Eid goodies and send them to us mid week when Eid arrived, or to go looking for a present at Eid time when they were not celebrating Eid themselves.

Do what feels right and don't make it burdensome upon yourselves. My DD aged 4 was asking a lot of questions about Christmas a few days ago when we were out shopping. I explained the origin of Christmas and why Christians celebrate it and because Jesus is a prophet of Islam too, I also explained what we believe about Jesus and how we express our love and respect for the Prophet Jesus in our own way.

Children needn't be confused by differences in religion. You just need to explain it to them in a way that their little minds can understand without giving anything a negative spin and being clear on your own beliefs whilst showing tolerance for others.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 15:48:36

it sounds like she has embraced the tenets of Islam and decided that means she needs to put aside some things she used to do

Yes, it does - which refers back to my earlier point that it seems a shame (and far from multicultural) that one religion can demand that anyone converting to it must put aside their previous religion, culture, custom, heritages. I suspect though that this approach is at the more extreme end of that particular religion though.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Mon 02-Dec-13 15:58:07

That's all crap and that side of the family are all going to hell because they are completely wrong in what they do, believe, think. eat, drink ...'

nicename, that's obviously NOT the way to explain things. Why would anyone want to be to antagonistic in explaining religion to a young child.

Would you explain Islam to a young child in the same negative way?

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 16:02:21

Just explain that different people, celebrate different festivals.

Every Muslim I know in the UK, does celebrate Christmas by the way.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 16:12:15

Why would anyone want to ignore their DD's heritage TheDietStartsTomorrow? It might not be antagonistic, but it's baffling and negative - given that the OP has posted on the 'multicultural families' topic board.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 16:12:59

their DD's and their own heritage

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 16:17:51

The message is just that to small children. A child's view of religion is very black and white.

So my lovely mummy converted. She loves God and God loves her... hang on... what about Granny? She believes in something else... something that we are taught is just wrong. Will she go to heaven? If I pray extra hard, will God forgive her?...

My family weren't all fire and brimstone but I had a teacher who certainly was. I was only in primary 1, but remember being basically told that anyone who didn't believe/repent/whatever just didn't get into heaven (and you know the alternative) - end of. My grandfather has just died and I remember worrying if he had gone to hell because he had been in the war and had more than likely killed. She also told me that my recently departed dog wasn't in heaven either.

To teach a child that they are exclusively 'right' in their beliefs can indeed cause them to worry that 'granny x wont go to heaven, but granny Y will'. I would also worry (as a child) that since mummy had done things in her past that were now 'forbidden', that she would not be forgiven either.

Or maybe I was just an over sensitive and thoughtful child.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 16:28:17

No, I think you are absolutely spot on Nicename. I can remember my bible-thumper of a Head Mistress in primary school telling us all that if we wouldn't go to heaven if we hadn't been Christened. My parents hadn't Christened my sister and she came home from school very upset as she had been told that she wasn't going to go to heaven, so at 5 she pleaded with my parents to have her Christened (this was the seventies...education has moved on since then thankfully).

Children can - and do - believe what they are told by grown ups, so teaching them that one religion alone is somehow better in that it trumps all other heritages and cultures, requires you to give up any previous beliefs you held, and will guarantee you forgiveness and a route to the afterlife is taken literally.

nicename Mon 02-Dec-13 16:40:35

I am proud to say that DS knows about the major religions, accepts that great-grandpa and great-grandma were Muslim, grandma and grandpa were Christian and they are all off in heaven.

I will not have him looking down on another persons beliefs/non beliefs and have taught him that a person may profess to be a good [insert religion of choice here] yet still be a bad/intolerant/bigoted person. Someone may have no faith but be a wonderful person, who does good for others, lives a good life and does no harm to themselves and others.

cornflakegirl Mon 02-Dec-13 17:19:40

TheDiet - that sounds like a lovely accommodation that you've reached.

SirChenjin - the OP isn't talking about ignoring her DD's heritage. She doesn't want to celebrate the festival of a religion she doesn't follow. Just because other people are happy to hang on to the non-religious bits of Christmas doesn't mean that she has to. Multiculturalism doesn't mean sticking all beliefs, customs and cultural practices in a bit pot and giving them a good stir. It's fine to be selective.

fuzzywuzzy Mon 02-Dec-13 18:00:13

We don't celebrate Christmas either, when younger I explained to my children it wasn't our religion.

I never bothered going into massive details about it.

We do however make very big deal over both Eid's and Ramadan as well which ends up being one month of festivities and going to people houses/masjids to break fast together.

When we were growing up my dad always made us send cards to people who sent them to us and reciprocate gifts which we did.

We also used to go see the lights in Oxford street. And we all enjoyed the two weeks Christmas holiday for school.
Now that I'm the grown up, I do use the time off to meet family and friends and have long lazy meals and catch up on gossip whilst the kids play together.

I've always maintained Christmas is my most favourite festival that I don't celebrate.

Explain it to your DD she'll be fine with it.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Mon 02-Dec-13 18:22:24

SirChenjin the argument about ignoring her heritage is a lame one. Are you saying you would uphold all of the traditions and beliefs your parents had just so that you could 'honour your heritage'? People change, times change and families change. If you upheld all the traditions of the religions of your forefathers you'd be celebrating many religions at any one go.

Just because you were born into a family that believed and practised something, it doesn't mean you are dishonouring them if you chose to do things differently.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 18:55:34

Lame in your opinion TheDietStartsTomorrow - my opinion differs. The fact is that her husband's religion has required her to drop her previous beliefs, cultures, etc in order to become a Muslim - it's got nothing to do with families changing. Interesting that one religion seems to have the monopoly here.

And if we are talking about 'dishonouring' then presumably her husband and his family won't see it as being dishonourable to the Muslim faith if his DD or the OP want to celebrate Christmas/winter festival/solstice/whatever at some level.

EvilRingahBitch Mon 02-Dec-13 19:11:37

The only opinion that matters is that of the OP, and she is very clear that God does not wish her to take part in any non-Muslim festivals - whether that is Christmas, Saturnalia, Winterval - or (depending on stance, Bonfire night or a two year olds birthday party). God's clearly stated opinion on the subject is going to trump any other view, just as any other strong moral conviction will trump routine considerations of good manners. Vegetarians don't eat turkey because it's traditional or to be polite to their hosts. I don't laugh at racist jokes even if it's my dear old grandma telling them. And the OP doesn't celebrate non-Muslim festivals.

SirChenjin Mon 02-Dec-13 19:29:26

And reasonable vegetarians don't insist that everyone else gives up meat....

There have been a number of posts on here giving suggestions as to how the OP could deal with the matter without having to resort to hiding presents that her family send. I hope she'll find something amongst them that will help her without putting the fear of God (in whatever form he/she takes) into her DD.

kelda Mon 02-Dec-13 19:40:21

The OP doesn't say she hides the presents family send her dd - she just says that she doesn't call them Christmas presents.

Jinsei Mon 02-Dec-13 21:24:28

A Muslim family at dds last school, the dd told all the class of 6/7 year olds that FC/Santa were their parents, they didn't believe and the dc that did were idiots.

FWIW, the child in dd's class who did this is from a very devout and evangelical Christian family, who don't "do" Santa because Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus.

adiia Mon 02-Dec-13 21:31:47

sirChenjin,cant see why you keep referring to her husband's religion.the Op's religion is islam,that SHE chose,let's stop this patronising attitute please. and quoting:Yes, it does - which refers back to my earlier point that it seems a shame (and far from multicultural) that one religion can demand that anyone converting to it must put aside their previous religion, culture, custom, heritages. I suspect though that this approach is at the more extreme end of that particular religion though.
i would like to see how can someone convert and still keep their previous religionhmm but obviously,anyone that practice their religion fully must be an extremist,alrighty...

TheDietStartsTomorrow Mon 02-Dec-13 21:37:37

The fact is that her husband's religion has required her to drop her previous beliefs, cultures, etc in order to become a Muslim - it's got nothing to do with families changing. Interesting that one religion seems to have the monopoly here.

A presumptuous statement if ever I saw one. Where has the OP stated that she has changed her religion because her husband's religion required that she drop her beliefs and cultures?

Did it ever occur to you that she may have a mind of her own and that the decision to become a Muslim was hers? Did it occur to you that she may have become a Muslim first and then found a life partner that was also Muslim? Did it occur to you that she may have spent time with him, learnt about his religion and because it made sense to her she CHOSE to become a Muslim and didn't just do it as a formality? That, and a number of other possibilities.

I have spent time with enough female Muslim converts to know that many find it quite preposterous when it is suggested that they only converted to marry. It may be true for some, but believe it or not, some women do have a mind of their own and make the decision themselves. Besides, to be a Muslim is to declare and believe so it's not possible to convert without truly believing in your heart that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. So to convert just for the sake of marriage is not possible.

Anyway SirChenjin, the OP has not asked you about what your opinion is on her DD celebrating the festival of another religion and nor has she asked you on your opinion on what religious practices and traditions of her family her DD should follow. She's asked for ideas on how to explain to her three year old DD that they do not celebrate Christmas without making her feel left out and without 'conveying the impression that those who do are bad or wrong'. That, in itself shows she has tolerance and respect for her family's beliefs and that she has the right attitude towards bringing her DD up in a family of differing religions.

Please do stop cooking up a storm unnecessarily and imposing your personal views onto someone who has not asked for them.

littleducks Mon 02-Dec-13 21:55:22

We don't celebrate xmas at all. People in rl seem to find it pretty normal its only on MN that I have been accused of depriving my children!

I would big up the xmas holidays (presuming you get them in a similar format to terms here) talking about fun places you will go and people you will visit. We always enjoy the holidays as everyone in the family has some time off in that period unlike summer or half terms.

adiia Mon 02-Dec-13 21:55:47

sirChenjin,cant see why you keep referring to her husband's religion.the Op's religion is islam,that SHE chose,let's stop this patronising attitute please. and quoting: Yes, it does - which refers back to my earlier point that it seems a shame (and far from multicultural) that one religion can demand that anyone converting to it must put aside their previous religion, culture, custom, heritages. I suspect though that this approach is at the more extreme end of that particular religion though
i would like to see how can someone convert and still keep their previous religionhmm but obviously,anyone that practice their religion fully must be an extremist,alrighty...

MERLYPUSS Tue 03-Dec-13 10:18:19

Santa, in my mind, has nothing to do with Christmas. It is a gross marketing ploy to get you to buy stuff you dont need. Why dont you get her a present from santa and tell her it it to celebrate the new year coming. I am from jewish roots, DH bhuddist. We do a non religious christmas - Santa and elves etc - for our twins. We dont do easter or lent or anything else like that. We occasionally indulge in chinese new year with fireworks. (neither of us are chinese) We do have presents on Christmas day that santa has bought the kids and I tell them that all kids get gifts at xmas if they have been good. Could this be a way out. In my opinion the world has lost the idea of the original christmas story. It's more about stuffing your face full of calorific grub and getting stressed out about not buying great aunt nelly, who you've not seen for the past 20 years, the most fabulous christmas gift ever. Because you 'have' to. Christmas has lost it's magic and become tainted in my opinion.
I'm sure you will come up with a solution. Have a nice holiday time anyway.

Wessex Tue 03-Dec-13 10:42:25

I'm not a big fan of Christmas. I was brought up a Christian and used to enjoy Christmas as a child but it's not until I had my own children that I started to enjoy it more.

However, one of the best christmas days I ever had was a day I spent pregnant on my own while DP went to his family. His family thought it was really "sad". Why/ It was what I wanted to do. I cooked my dinner, went for a walk, watched what I wanted to. It was great.

At one time or another, my mother, my father and my sister have all spent Christmas Day on their own in one form or another.

The pressure to do what other people expect you to do is what is wrong with Christmas.

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Tue 03-Dec-13 11:45:20

Both my partner and I were raised celebrating Christmas. We stopped celebrating it as adults. I don't see why one should have to continue traditions that one does not wish to just because of 'heritage'. I also didn't just do the Day of Mourning/Thanksgiving even as an American Metis, it's not a tradition that would bring me or my family anything. I also find it quite rude to keep calling it her husband's faith when she starts be saying WE are Muslims.

alteredimages I think you're getting quite a raw deal on this thread for what is quite a simple question and normal concern.

My children live in the UK and have never celebrated Christmas, though their friends and many of our relatives do. When it came to their attention, we discussed that celebrations are important and different people celebrate different things, it's nice to help people celebrate how they want (like passing out candy at Halloween even when we're preparing for Dias de los Muertos), and we celebrate what's important to us - and Christmas isn't part of that for us. I do think making a big deal of the fun of ones own traditions is more important as a minority for many reasons, but to answer your question, the simplest explanation that I gave is very unlikely to lead to problematic thinking given here. My children have never viewed others as worse for not celebrating their holidays - just that we're all different - and have never gone around telling other kids that Father Christmas isn't real - they just say that they don't celebrate Christmas if it's brought up to them. We discuss it all regularly as they get older, valuing their input and feeling, and even as our holiday traditions have changed, they're very happy without it even if others would never believe that.

We also have been given presents from our relatives (though rarely anywhere near December, usually closer to DD1''s birthday in February) and we just call them 'presents'. They're given them because their relatives care for them and that's what's most important - and now that's what their relatives call them as well. My in-laws called the sweets my kids once sent for Purim as 'a lovely present our grandkids made us', it would never occur to either party that the holiday was what was most important about the gift that it had to be acknowledged. I wish you all the best with this OP - I'm sure you weren't expecting this kind of explosive responses to this.

lovefifteen Tue 03-Dec-13 11:52:38

I live overseas and in a country where there are a lot of different cultures. I celebrate Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Diwali, Easter and Christmas. Every time we have a celebration we have such a lovely time. It is so great to be included in so many festivals. Celebrate Christmas. There is more to it than the religious aspect. You can give to others and have a nice time even though it is not part of your primary culture.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Tue 03-Dec-13 12:03:05

Could you tell your daughter that you don't celebrate Christmas because you are Muslim, but have a small celebration for (depending on preference)

- the winter solstice on the 21st (lots of opportunity to look at astronomy, how the length of days changes (you can tie that into Ramadan and talk about how the length of the days in Ramadan will vary according to what time of year it falls) etc., etc.). This ties in to the actual natural world reason that the Christian calendar has put in a midwinter festival but bypasses the religious aspect.

or

- new year's eve on the 31st (count down the days to the end of the year, reflect on what you've done this year, how you've all changed, look forward to what you're going to do next year, etc., etc.). Again, no religious aspect. If you're planning to move to Egypt later on then this may be the better option to go for as closer to the Equator the solstice won't be as obvious.

Then the "Christmas" presents you get from relatives can be redirected towards the secular celebration you choose to go for instead, as can any not overtly religious "Christmas" trappings she's bringing home from school.

Kendodd Tue 03-Dec-13 17:40:57

Can I ask all the non Christian posters who don't want to celebrate or acknowledge Christmas, how you feel about me (as a white British cultural Christian, without any believe in God) celebrating your festivals?

I admit I don't do it for any other reason other than the fact that it gives us more things to celebrate and is fun. Although they do learn about other traditions through this that isn't the main aim.

Anyway, how does it make you feel? Do you think it's offensive to your God and believes? Like I'm not taking it seriously. I have sometimes wondered this so this thread seemed a good place place to ask.

OP for what it's worth I think you are over thinking this a little. Just say we don't celebrate Christmas, we have Eid, but Christmas is nice to watch.

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Tue 03-Dec-13 20:00:44

Kendodd: That would depend on what festivals you're celebrating it and how you're doing so. Some festivals are more open than others, many have important values beyond 'it's fun' that are often missed particularly when they are co-opted by the mainstream particularly when it without the original communities involvement.

Particularly for groups where our religious and cultural values were illegal and our ancestors were beaten and killed for their beliefs and traditions, had our things forcefully taken from us because of others' perception, had our communities torn apart to try to destroy our celebrations and beliefs, and even today lack access to our traditional places and arrested for trying to protect the ones that are left, cannot wear our traditional clothes in public, and have very little say in how our image is used, it's quite painful to have 'celebration tourists' come and do a mock-version 'for fun' without having to deal with any of the baggage attached to it, without being invited, and often having their versions seen as more important than ours can be quite painful (see the Mayan celebrations last year where they were denied the rights to their sites in favour of White tourists). Having people going around in sugar skull makeup because 'it's Halloween fun' refusing to acknowledge that Dias de los Muertos is very different - and having them get far more of the public space - is annoying at best. Some things are open as fun - and some things are meant to be taken seriously. Quite different from most Western perspectives, not everything is up for grabs and entertainment or open to be taken by all.

It's less about insulting our beliefs or deity (if they are part of it) and more about whether the people this is rooted in are being treated with respect or whether their traditions are being co-opted and the people themselves tossed aside which is quite common when things become 'fun fads'. I don't think one can insult the Universe/Great Mystery, but taking our important traditions and items and playing out of context would be insulting to us.

The general rule is that it's best to be invited and follow the lead of those who are meant to be charge. People are obviously going to do whatever they want and take it for fun anyway because that's what the system supports, but the most respectful way would be to take the lead and invitations from the community whose 'fun' one wants to enjoy. Some things I invite everyone to, others are close kin only.

myislam Wed 04-Dec-13 08:30:15

I also have a 4 year old and she is now aware of Christmas festivities that are happening. We are also Muslim so do not celebrate Christmas.
I want to explain to her that we don't celebrate Christmas but our big celebration and time for gifts and presents is for eid.
I am a revert to Islam also and my family still gets together and celebrates and we are extremely close. I don't want to avoid and simply not see my family on Christmas day because we are extremely close I would find this hard.
When she is old enough to understand I will also explain to her the logic and reason as to why we don't believe in christmas- that jesus's birthday is unknown and this was not his day of birth- this is what we believe- but every religion and person is entitled to and should be respected on their personal beliefs- so will tell her in a way that Christmas is not wrong but simply different people celebrate it and others celebrate their own so called "christmas"

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