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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?

chelle792 Thu 10-Dec-15 17:41:10

I'm gutted this is a zombie thread. I really wanted to add my two pennies! I'll add anyway wink

DH was brought up in a family that didn't celebrate christmas (although his cousins did). He's chosen to celebrate as an adult but he views his lack of Christmas festivities as a good thing because he feels uncomfortable with the expectation of presents

Gee87 Thu 10-Dec-15 17:25:44

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus son of Mary. Muslims do believe in that birth as they do believe in Jesus (as a prophet), so I don't see the problem with going along with the Christmas atmosphere. It's a jolly season and your not doing anything against your beliefs by acknowledging christmas, aka: the birth of Jesus.
I wouldn't necessarily say the same bout Easter though, as it is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, which Muslims have different beliefs of, given that muslims don't believe that Jesus was crucified in the first place . But Easter isn't that big a deal in Europe anyway.
Having said that, if I were living in China I would celebrate the Chinese New Year just to teach my kids to embrace all cultures.

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"

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.

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.

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.


- 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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 16:17:51

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.

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