‘Merry Christmas!’ From Someone Who Doesn’t Celebrate

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

The weather is constantly switching up between “pretty” and “deathly blizzard”. Christmas songs are everywhere. Every store around is either closed or cartoonishly packed with last-minute shoppers, all of whom are prepared to give you their fiercest death-stares if you pick up that thing they wanted. What do you do? Humbly, you put it back down and walk away. You’ve seen Christmas shopping fight compilations before, you know how this’ll go.   

Babies are crying, children are pouting and some poor big fella has stuffed himself into a red jumpsuit to take pictures with rowdy kids – all because Santa Claus is coming to town.

See the thing is, for me, Santa kind of skips my house every year.

I was raised Muslim; my family still practices to this day. The thing about not celebrating Christmas, in a part of the world that comes to a complete halt this time of year because of it, is that you get thrown into this weird socio-political “War on Christmas” – effectively an argument over whether or not you should say “merry Christmas” with abandon, since it may be offensive to those who don’t celebrate.

Now the idea behind it, I kind of like. Don’t assume things about people – really, that should be the end of the discussion. However, that’s not likely to happen across the board; the “war” is ongoing, so let’s talk alternate approaches.  

Here’s how I feel as someone who doesn’t celebrate: I think it’s unfair for the Christmas-less to be Grinches about it. If you don’t like being bothered on your religious/cultural holidays, don’t do it to other people. Especially living in a place like Canada, a country that prides itself on its immigrant culture and diversity, you should at least try and play nice.

However, for those of you that celebrate, religiously or culturally, I think there’s nothing wrong with saying merry Christmas. It’s nice of you to be considerate, but think about why you’re saying it. You’re trying to spread cheer, right?

As a Muslim, I celebrate Eid twice a year. Prayer in the morning, massive family dinner in the evening and some gift or money exchanging (mostly just from adults to kids). It’s virtually our equivalent to Christmas. I say “Eid Mubarak” to all my non-Muslim friends, not because I want them to celebrate, but because, religiously, I’m encouraged to share my happiness with all my loved ones. When I say “Eid Mubarak,” I’m really saying: “Hey, welcome to my moment of happiness, join me in it please,” in just two words.

So, when someone says merry Christmas to me, I see it in a similar way. An invitation to be happy, an offer to share joy, or even just a casual greeting or departing message. To me, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, if you’re not saying merry Christmas to be nice, why are you saying it?

So, going forward from this holiday season, when you, the Christmas celebrating majority, are out and about – shopping and what not, don’t be afraid to say Merry Christmas. If someone says to you that they don’t celebrate it, or that they don’t appreciate it, then apologise. It’s not that complicated.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy Hanukah, happy Kwanza, all that good stuff.  Happy New Year’s as well. I’ll see you guys on Eid.  

This piece is brought to you by the Gone Full Circle Podcast Experience Christmas Special: The War on Christmas (with Ben Cohen)Out now, officially dropping tomorrow.