Growing up with an English father and Tunisian mother, my family knows a fair amount about embracing more than one culture. Despite my father being a Muslim since marrying my mother, my family still celebrates Christmas every year.
As a child, this was often met with either confusion or understanding depending on who I spoke to. I’d like to think that I got the best of both worlds with my parents being from different cultures.
My childhood is full of memories of putting up the tree with my brothers, leaving out cookies and milk for Santa and opening presents on Christmas morning. All of this considered, our family never associated religion with the celebrations, it was simply a time where my family on my English side all got together and enjoyed dinner. I know that this is something that not only my family and I embrace, but many Arabs in the Middle East and all over the world have come to adopt during the holiday season and view it as culture, as opposed to religion.
An example was seen by Emirati social media personality Khalid Al Ameri, who this week posted a video about whether Muslims and Arabs celebrate Christmas or not, stating that although they may not formally celebrate, they embrace the holiday spirit.
In the light-hearted clip, Ameri says: “The most important thing that we celebrate here (in the UAE) is the ability to bring love, joy and happiness to anyone and everyone who comes here and calls this place home, regardless of their culture, regardless of their religion.”
He then attempts to show proof of this with footage of Christmas decorations and festive markets around Abu Dhabi. From this video, there is an underlying message that Christmas is an inclusive holiday.
Some people however do view this topic differently as we recently saw with British boxer Amir Khan’s fans’ reaction to him having a Christmas tree at home for his daughter. Khan received death threats however also received support from fellow Muslims around the world, one commenting: “I think, we realize that Christmas is more cultural than religious. Just because I have a tree it doesn’t make me Christian.”
Despite this, young social media influencers persist in trying to promote co-existance, this is emphasized by a video post by American-Muslim musician Raef where he re-works the lyrics of ‘Deck the Halls’ to fit into that of Islamic beliefs, integrating the holiday spirit and the mutual love the religions share for the prophet Isa, Jesus.
Raef says of the song: “Those who celebrate Jesus from the Christian faith and those who express love for him from the Muslim faith have plenty in common,” showing us that there is a lot more that makes us similar, than different from one another.
Raef’s final comments were: “the power of music to transcend cultural and religious boundaries is incredible!” Hopefully, we can all learn from embracing other cultures and unite in embracing the festive season together.