Christmas from the Other Side

Christmas from the Other Side

It seems that the Thanksgiving dishes are barely put away when the Christmas season pushes itself to center stage. The commercials display lit trees in unrealistically sparkling houses and new cars wrapped in big red bows. Cul de sacs become showcases for twinkling light displays and animatronic reindeer. The movies take over the television line-up: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Eloise at Christmas time and many more. In short, from the end of November until the end of December, the United States goes Christmas crazy. For the 73 percent of Americans who are Christian, the holiday’s cultural dominance is perfectly expected. However, for those who practice other religions, or no religion at all, the dominance of Christmas is something that takes getting used to.

“Until sixth grade, I was in a Hebrew school, so our big deal this time a year was Hanukah,” said Mrs. McLaughlin, a French teacher who is half Jewish. “It was the same as kids celebrating Christmas.” Soon, McLaughlin switched into a public school. But she didn’t feel alienated by the dominance of Christmas. “I didn’t feel like I was missing anything,” she commented.

While McLaughlin stuck to her own traditions when she was in school, other non-Christian students use the holiday season as a time to celebrate some aspects of Christmas. Ameer Patel (’13) and his Hindu family gather together and exchange presents. He noted that, overall, he felt neutral about Christmas overload.

Laila Abujuma (’15) is a Muslim, but gets into the Christmas spirit more than most people. “I’ve never felt left out since I’ve always gone along with the holiday traditions such as singing Christmas carols, giving presents, baking cookies, and other special things,” she said.”It fills me with joy.” Her Arab-American family members decorate their house, cook a Christmas dinner, and keep a mini Christmas tree in their living room.

McLaughlin’s husband celebrates Christmas, so she now celebrates two holidays. “I have to admit, it feels weird to have a Christmas tree in my house,” she noted with a laugh. She added that she appreciates the diversity of celebrating multiple holidays – a sentiment shared by Abujuma and Patel as well.  Abujuma noted, “We celebrate Eid as much as we can, but since it’s not observed in the United States, it’s hard to.” Patel lamented, “The holidays and festivals that we celebrate are rarely even known of and if they are, they are misunderstood.” So, while Christmas time may be more of a cultural holiday than a religious one for many people, Americans should strive to consider the holy days of other cultural groups.