Shahida Muhammad writes about her experiences with Christmas while growing up.
Being Muslim on Christmas
December 8, 2014 By Shahida Muhammad
“Now write a list of things you want from Santa,” my 3rd-grade teacher casually instructed as she handed out a sheet of paper for us to write on.
I saw it coming – another filler assignment to occupy our attention for at least an hour or so in the last few days before the holiday break.
“I don’t celebrate Christmas, can I have something else to do?”
I spent the next 30-minutes doodling on the back of a reef coloring sheet. My classmates were in disbelief.
“Dag, you don’t get nothing on Christmas? That’s crazy! I couldn’t be no Muzlim.”
“That’s ’cause she don’t believe in Jesus, she believes in Ola.”
“No and Santa doesn’t even have anything to do with …” They weren’t tryna hear any of it. All the comebacks I had stored up over the years from being in this same exact situation fell on deaf ears. At 8-years-old, all they could process was the shock of me waking up on December 25th without any gifts waiting for me while I was purposely avoiding red and green crayons – I was done with the holiday hoopla at this point.
This was as broad as religious discussions got in my public school elementary classrooms. Year after year, I sat through Christmas plays, visits from Santa, and tree decorating activities. There was an occasional presentation on Kwanzaa, which usually only lasted a day and included a lackluster call-and-response of a few of the principles. I also remember learning a tidbit about Jewish dreidels and Hanukkah. Exposure pretty much stopped there.