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Christmas as a Muslim: 'My mom was always careful that we'd never feel left out'

I’ve always loved Christmas, as much as a Muslim can, writes Meriem Ahmed.

Meriem Ahmed Writer and blogger

GROWING UP, I’VE always loved Christmas, as much as a Muslim can without actually “celebrating” it. The songs, the lights that bring cheer to dull winter streets, the festive movies and the genuine joy that is sparked at this time of the year are mesmerising.

Some of my greatest childhood memories are that of my mom, dressing up as Santa Claus, dropping off a big bag of toys for us.

We never felt left out

As kids, my mom always got us gifts for Christmas, and took us on numerous Santa visits. She was careful that we’d never feel left out among our Christian community, or be the foreign kid in every playschool who ruins Christmas for everyone else by telling them that Santa isn’t real.

It wasn’t until I was about 8 or 9 that I was told why Santa stopped coming, and why we don’t put up a Christmas tree or celebrate Christmas.

In my house, we’ve never celebrated Christmas. It was always just a regular day and sometimes it could be inconvenient, for example when my mum would forget to pick up milk or a kitchen necessity that we’d be stuck without for the day.

Nevertheless, not celebrating Christmas in no way stopped us from counting down the days, watching Home Alone, or listening to our favourite Christmas albums all through December.

My very first Christmas

Last year, my friend Ruth and her family invited me to their home for my very first Christmas. It was such a warm gesture for Ruth’s parents to have me over on a day that is so special and all about family. I felt very special, sitting around the table with them.

That day, I spent my entire morning singing along to Michael Buble’s Christmas album while I made breakfast, got dressed and applied my make-up. I headed up to Ruth’s house for 12.30pm, and was greeted by several chants of ”Merry Christmas”, a big hug from Lorraine, her mum, at the door, swiftly followed by John, her dad and
a “sup” from Ruth.

Despite her hate for hugs and Christmas, Ruth didn’t squirm too much when I hugged her and wished her a merry Christmas.

Christmas – it means hugs

Christmas – it brings out the warmth in everybody. Ruth and I lounged about and ate an entire pack of Rafaellos while she forced me to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After dinner we watched Home Alone for the millionth time.

All I can say about Christmas dinner is, if you haven’t had it, you must, and if you have, you will understand that I am not understating when I say it is nothing short of glorious.

I nearly converted by my third bite in. Lorraine had made such an effort in making sure I was comfortably guested, in regards to dietary requirements and ensuring there was Coke chilled for my arrival.

It was such a heart-warming feeling, just being there, sitting at the table with Ruth, her parents and family, with good food, good wine (Coke in my case), sharing stories and laughing.

Overall, it was an experience that I will forever cherish, remember, and am grateful to have experienced with people who I love very dearly.

Meriem Ahmed is 19, studying English and Sociology at UCD. She is a poet, writer and blogger.  

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About the author:

Meriem Ahmed  / Writer and blogger

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