A Muslim's first real Christmas, and how I ended up with an everything bagel tree ornament
My Muslim family never celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. This year, given the ongoing pandemic, I had to make the tough decision not to go home for the vacation because it just isn't safe.
The silver lining is my roommates are teaching me how to have my first real Christmas. I approach this with anthropological precision and want to share my observations.
Observation 1: Christmas is a part-time job that you have from mid-November through late December. It's a whole production.
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From the outside, Christmas always seemed pretty easy. I always thought you'd put up a tree and then give gifts to the family. That's a lie.
Would you like to sleep on a Saturday? Too bad. Turn on some lights in the house.
Oh you wanna sleep on Sunday Too bad. Turn on a few lights in front of the house.
Next weekend? No Every free moment you have is spent tormenting yourself over the gifts to buy.
Mohammad Hussain's first Christmas tree in Ottawa, Ontario, December 2020.
Observation 2: Don't disturb people and their Christmas traditions because they will fight you.
My roommate told me that her family tradition eats pumpkin pie on Christmas Day. I saw murder in her eyes when I asked if it had to be pumpkin pie. I've also heard of people who have strong feelings for turkey, fish, and Yorkshire pudding.
Observation 3: You can buy yourself a gift, but you cannot darn your own stocking.
I don't understand or disagree, but I told my roommate that I bought items for my stocking and he said it was against the rules.
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I do not care. I bought a Mint ChapStick and a bath bomb and I will happily fake a surprise.
Observation 4: Your gift budget does not matter. Everything will always be $ 10 too expensive. Just give this up.
Observation 5: There are two streams of Christmas decorations: the fillers and the holders.
The fillers are the generic ones that fill the tree. The zookeepers are the unique ones kept in your family's reliquary to one day be passed down to the children.
My roommates encouraged me to buy my own guardian ornament, which would be special to me and make me smile. I bought this one and I am very happy. It's an everything bagel.
Mohammad Hussain's bagel ornament in Ottawa, Ontario, December 2020.
Observation 6: Ornaments are expensive.
The everything bagel cost me $ 15.99. That's more than three bagels. I am angry. For what it cost, you'd best believe I insist that it be passed on to my great-grandchildren. If you break it I'll chase you.
Observation 7: The religious aspect of Christmas is optional.
I really like this one. I realize that the religious aspect of Christmas is very important to many, but there are ways for anyone to celebrate.
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As someone who is not very religious, if I suggested a secular Ramadan to my mother, she would have a heart attack. However, I will try to get my family to make a secret Santa Claus for oath. The name is being edited.
Observation 8: You need a "menu".
They lost me here. Last Christmas my family ordered Popeyes and saw a movie. My roommate has planned an entire menu of wine pairings and desserts.
Mohammad Hussain with his roommates Kirsten Paula and Ahmad Farhat in December 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario.
Observation 9: You spend a disproportionate amount of time being sneaky in your own home.
No matter whether you are wrapping or hiding presents, eavesdropping on conversations for inspiration, or darning stockings. It's very stressful but also a bit addicting.
Observation 10: We need teaching materials on Christmas rules.
Seriously. How should a man learn these things? In between all of the college brochures and motivational posters, the high school counseling offices should have brochures on the subject. I can already imagine - "Is your ornament a filler or a preserver?" "Do and don't do stockings."
Finally, I would like to applaud the long-time Christmas party. It's a lot of work and very exhausting.
I will say I have a very good time. I am learning that I like Christmas music and giving. I also learn that I don't like peppermint.
Happy Holidays everyone! And remember, if you are able to make a donation to a local food bank to help those in need.
Mohammad Hussain is a Canadian who works as a political worker in Ottawa. This column was adapted from a Twitter thread. Follow him here: @MohammadHussain
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: A Muslim's First Real Christmas: My Anthropological Observations
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