December 23, 2012

THE MONOCULTURE:

How do Muslims celebrate Christmas? Turkey, Top of the Pops and Shloer : In a Muslim home Christmas is about friends and family - festive cheer in the winter drear. Much as it is for other people, I imagine (Huma Qureshi, 12/19/12, guardian.co.uk)

I absolutely love Christmas.

Baking mince pies, choosing presents and then wrapping them all up and writing Christmas cards ... I'm possibly not nearly cynical enough, but I love all the festive stuff that goes with this time of year. I love how everyone gets a day off. I love how everyone travels back to their parents' house on Christmas Eve, like some sort of ritualistic voyage. I love the telly listings and the food and the noise of everyone being together. Love it. It's up there with Eid. This year, I've outdone myself - I organised my Christmas presents last month.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are of Christmas day - the family round the table, my dad carving a huge halal turkey which we'd have ordered weeks in advance, heaps of brussels sprouts, sticky carrots and roast potatoes and a bottle or two of Shloer (our version of a, er, posh non-alcoholic drink) to pass around. We'd play Scrabble and Monopoly and watch the Queen's speech, Top of the Pops and the EastEnders Christmas special. Sometimes my mum would do the Asian thing and we'd end up with 40-odd family friends joining us, which would mean less leftovers, but that was OK too. Last year, my Christmas-loving brother was in charge of the menu - he went so far as tracking down an organic, halal goose.

Christmas in my Muslim home was obviously not a religious thing: it was (and is) about being on holiday and getting together with friends and family, something festive and bright to cheer up the winter drear. I imagine this is how it is for most people.

But at school, where we kneeled every morning after assembly for the Lord's Prayer, it was different. I was in every school nativity play, often a wise man with a keffiyeh-styled tea towel on my head, and I sung hymns and carols in every school Christmas church service, ending with big happy shouts of "Merry Christmas everyone!" and plates of mince pies passed round as we'd bundle out the church door.

The traditions are passing on: soon, my four-year-old nephew will be making his debut in his school Christmas play.

Posted by at December 23, 2012 9:38 AM
  

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