Passover celebrates the freedom from bondage, and I have an opportunity as a physician to free my patients from the bondage of illness.
In the Name of God: The Exceedingly and Everlastingly Loving and Caring
I know people mean well. I realize they don’t know whether or not I celebrate Christmas and do not want to offend me. I figure that they believe “Happy Holidays” is safe and encompasses all faiths – or no faith at all. I get it.
As a Muslim at Christmas, however, it’s still a little annoying.
Now, as a Muslim, do I celebrate Christmas as a religious festival of the birth of the Son of God? No. That does not mean that I don’t try to spread cheer and joy with others during this time of year.
My family and I send Christmas cards to our friends and neighbors, and we love receiving them in return. We give gifts to our friends, neighbors, and our children’s teachers. And we appreciate receiving them as well.
And we enjoy telling everyone “Merry Christmas” (although I like better the “Happy Christmas” greeting our British cousins give each other).
There was one time in my life – while I was suffering from the fires of fanatic stupidity – when I believed it was “forbidden” to say “Merry Christmas” to others, that doing so would betray my Muslim identity and faith. Then, I grew up.
Now I understand that there is nothing wrong – as a Muslim – with saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone I meet. There is nothing in that statement – “Merry Christmas” – that betrays my Muslim identity and faith. In fact, saying “Merry Christmas” is wholly consistent with my Muslim faith.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Spread Peace to one another.” Saying “Merry Christmas” is nothing if not spreading peace. It is being a good neighbor, a good friend, a good colleague, and a good citizen. Islam demands that I be all of those people, and so what could possibly wrong with saying “Merry Christmas”?
“Happy Holidays” just doesn’t do it for me. It’s so vanilla and devoid of meaning. Yes, in this time of year, there are multiple holidays bunched together in very close proximity. Thus saying “Happy Holidays” conveys three greetings at once: “Happy Thanksgiving,” and “Merry Christmas, and “Happy New Year.”
Still, to me at least, it does not seem heartfelt. When I say “Merry (or Happy) Christmas,” I am saying: “I pray you and yours have happiness and joy this Christmas.” It is a sincere prayer to God for peace for you. What could possibly be wrong with this?
“Happy Holidays” feels to me like “Salamu alaikum” in the Muslim world. When I was there in 2006, everyone said “Salamu alaikum,” which means “Peace be with you.” But it had no meaning. It felt like “hey,” or “yo,” and it betrayed what it really means to pray for peace for someone else.
Of course, I do not doubt anyone’s sincerity when they say “Happy Holidays” at all. Like I said in the beginning, I know they mean well. For this Muslim, however, during this time of year, I like to say “Merry Christmas.” It just feels right to me, and it’s a small way that I can help spread peace in a world that is tragically devoid of it.
From my family to you and yours, a very Merry and Happy Christmas.