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Explaining to three year old about not celebrating christmas

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


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 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.

LaurieFairyCake Sat 30-Nov-13 17:09:43

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?

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