I'm new to this forum... but I have a little dillemma and I am curious what other parents are doing in their families.... I am Catholic, but my Dh is Muslim and we are raising our kids Muslim. My Ds is 4 and he goes to public preschool. In his school there is a Christmas tree, they do Christmas related arts and crafts, have a party, gift exchange and talk about Santa HEAVILY. Also, every cartoon on tv these days is either Christmas or Hannukah related ..... (kind of makes me sad that there are no Muslim cartoon characters on maintstreem tv, right now we are watching Special Agent Oso and there are 3 kids on there, one is decorating for Christmas, one for Hannukah and the third for Kwanzaa... no Muslim kid) (but that's another topic in itself). Anyway, my ds is 4 and I am not sure what is the right thing to do here? I decided to give him a gift this month because all of his friends are getting gifts from Santa, he would not understand why he would be the only child in his class not getting a gift...I am not teaching him about Christmas but he knows so much just from tv and school! I am worried that he is confused. I mean, his dad is teaching him about Islam, and takes him to the Mosque on Fridays, but still, through we are not teaching him about Christmas, he know all about it and thinks we are celebrating it! He asked for a special toy from Santa, what should I do, just give it to him? At 4, I don't think he can understand if I tried to explain that he is Muslim and does not celebrate Santa and Christmas, he would feel left out, and that would be a big deal for a 4 year old. My dd is only 17 months so it is not a problem yet. So I am just curious, what are other families, Muslim families, or other non-Christian families doing around Christmas time? How do you deal with the gift giving and all the exposure in school and media, and basically in every store, street etc. I don't wanna do the wrong thing here. Thank you for any input!
How do you approach the subject of "Santa" and "Christmas" if you are raising your kids Muslim?
You could tell him Santa is a story character that some people pretend is real around this time of year. And those people celebrate Christmas. But your family doesn't.
Edited to add: I think he would eventually be able to understand that he is Muslim and has other holidays but not Christmas. Santa is so pushed at schools though, so I see why he'd buy into it and think that he was doing what the other kids are. ( I am not Muslim- but I am also not Christian, so my advice is more general to holidays we don't celebrate).
Edited by Zephyrine - 12/9/11 at 6:53pm
I hope you don't mind if I post here even though I'm not raising my kids Muslim. I don't think four is too young to start to understand. I think getting a special toy would stick in his mind and he would remember that - who wouldn't remember a special toy?
I was raised without Christmas - we were semi-observant Jews in a predominantly non-Jewish neighborhood. While I might have felt left out at times I also had a strong alternative narrative - I don't celebrate Christmas because I am Jewish. I celebrate Hannukah. My parents really played down Christmas and I was probably that bratty kid who told all the five-year-olds in the neighborhood that there was no Santa (sorry moms and dads!)
I'm raising my daughter Jewish even though my husband isn't Jewish. I'm not very observant but I'm becoming more so because I feel like my DD deserves the full explanation for why Santa doesn't come. If Christmas wasn't such a big cultural event I might be more secular about everything.
What I find really difficult is the holiday parties. Every year my work has a gigantic children's Christmas party featuring the company owner in a santa suit (yes, surreal.) Every year my kids sit on Santa's lap and all the parents give me weird looks that I'm not rushing up to take pictures. I have told my daugher (DS is only just 2) that we go to the party because they are nice people and we want to celebrate with them. She has started telling random people that wish her Merry Christmas that she doesn't celebrate (yes I have tried to explain social graces, but she's 5) so I am just waiting for the horribly awkward moment when she says that to the company owner. I have told many people at work that I am Jewish but somehow I've never gotten into the "So, what religion are you?" conversation with the owners.
Well, we celebrate, not that this information really helps, but just to answer the "what do other Muslim families do ..." part. :) There's a range, from those who avoid, to those who celebrate secular Christmas to one extent or another, to those who make something of a quasi-religious recognition of it as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, even though the associated story isn't entirely the Islamic one. My own family is somewhere in the middle. I think a couple of our fellow MDCers go the route of creating seasonal traditions that are actually about the season itself, use the opportunity to teach about Jesus in the Islamic tradition, bake cookies, perhaps give a gift, and overall don't either play it up too much or treat it as something forbidden.
Since you mentioned your spouse is Muslim, not yourself, I gather this has more to do with his comfort zone, so perhaps the best thing would be to clarify with him what he feels is important to avoid.
My kids are 11 and almost 8. My dh is Hindu and we had agreed to raise them that way. (Dh kinda dropped the ball but that's another topic.) I was raised Christian and although I am not a believer, I do find great comfort and beauty in the wisdom of the stories of the Old and New Testaments, as well as other religions.
This year we explored every major religious holiday that is celebrated this time of year, as well as Ramadan which is sometimes celebrated this time of year depending on the calendar. I looked up the meaning of each holiday, found a story for kids, and talked about how those families would celebrate them including food and rituals. It was very enjoyable for all of us! I learned so much that I didn't know before.
I think that if you raise your kids in a multicultural society such as in the U.S. it's important to teach about all cultures at some point in order to make the children culturally literate. Even if I don't accept or agree with some of the religions I tried to present them in a respectful manner that left it open to my kids to decide what they believed about them. Someday my kids will be working along side, or be neighbors with, or hopefully friends with, people of many cultures. In order to get along we have to instill respect that those people have a rich heritage in their own cultures just as we do in our own families.
So getting back to Santa, just start out with "some people believe . . . " and continue on that line. My kids enjoy getting back to the history of it-- where did the idea of Santa come from? What other names was he called? What does his spirit represent to people? How did he become the jolly commercialized character he is today? Why is it so important for some people to believe in him, and why is it important that we not shatter that belief?
My daughter by the way, still believes in Santa at age 11. It was not my idea to introduce him to her but she wanted to believe so I went along with it. I don't lie to her, but I leave it open for her to decide and I go along with it. She's never asked me directly what i think because she doesn't want to know the answer yet. Even with all the evidence against him being real, she believes. But that, I suppose, is the basis for faith.
We follow no religion.A good dvd on Santa we recently got from the library was A& E Biography on Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus.
Excellent dvd that covers the the history of Santa from the start to the present day Santa we all see and identify with. All I recall was originally in the US version Santa was this little elf looking man who gave presents.St.Nick was actually some tall skinny man.
Before the whole chimney=presents in the US the poor went banging on rich peoples doors for presents,but that tradtion got switched over to the current one so people would wait at home. The current looking santa big guy with whilte beard and red/white suit was changed over time by writers.
I am sure there is a dvd out that covers the history of Christmas too. I find it very interesting to watch these with the kids and talk about the different activities people have come up with over the years.All people do this. Look at kwanzaa.Look at how the the hanukkah holiday has changed. People create these actitivies and over time they become traditions.People tweak them to meet their needs. It's all good if you are happy and doing what you want.
Trouble comes when people start fighting over which to celebrate.Which holiday is more valid than the next.Sometimes the adults can be more mean about it than kids(towards other kids).
I gotta say I was a bit disappointed when I found out that the current Santa figure was something someone just made up. I knew there was St. Nick,but I suppose I always thought it was some big fat guy with the white beard and red suit.....but that was just something someone came up with. Still glad I got the dvd.
My kids are 7, *almost* 5, just turned 3, and 13 months. The older ones know that Santa is a made up story and some people pretend he is real. I flat-out told them it's moms and dads buying the presents just like we do for our holidays. I told them that sometimes people even dress up as Santa as part of the game--just like people dress up for Halloween.
My son last year said the sweetest thing--told me he understood about Santa, but he was not going to tell the other kids at school because they would be sad. :happyt
I do allow mine to participate in the class party and gift exchange so far---this year i really liked the concept, pick something from your house, wrap, exchange. What I did NOT like and would like to address for next year: a booth with the kids making "Holy Family" ornaments at the winter carnival (they gave them to my mom, who they know is Christian, but I just don't think it belongs in a public school function) and the fact that they do a unit on "winter holidays" and do not mention Muslim holidays---though my kids are in the school and they share the building and a buddy program with a program for English language learners, many of whom are also Muslim. They talk about different countries Christmas tradtions, Haunakah and Kwanzaa, so they can throw in a lesson on Ramadan and Eid....jmo.
We are a Christian family, but pretty unconventionally so, and when DS was born I really didn't want to have anything to do with Santa, but that proved impossible in our family situation (at least without completely ostracizing both our families). However, this year is the first year DS has really noticed Santa (he is 3.5 yrs). He was TOTALLY wierded out; I have a copy of The Night Before Christmas out with our reading books during the Christmas season, and I think when he first saw a guy dressed up as Santa, it was like a character from his books just came to life right there. He did not like it; I think it blurred the lines of fiction/non fiction for him in a very creepy sort of way!
This year we have another little one living with us who is 5, so it is my first experience with a kid in kindergarten. I was blown away by how much Santa stuff he was exposed to there. Not looking forward to that part for my own son. I'll be following this thread for suggestions as well.
I do not have any children of my own yet, but I did grew up in an agnostic/atheist family and am engaged to be married to a Muslim man.
For us, Christmas is about coming together as a family. Sharing a nice dinner, partaking in certain traditions such as finding the almond in the porridge and decorating the Christmas tree. It is not a religious celebration at all in my family. I don't know...personally, I see Christmas as a cultural thing and not a religious celebration, because that is how it is in my family and think that is the way I will raise me and my partner's future children too.
As for Santa...it is a difficult one, especially in the U.S. I would believe but sooner or later, your little one will stop believing and I think even Muslim children can be forgiven for not knowing better when they are very young, no?
When it comes to the gift part, it is easily solved by taking your little one Christmas shopping. Ask him to pick out just one present for himself. Have him help you wrap it up and then give it to him during the holidays. Ask him if Santa was involved or not. Then tell him that is how all parents do. They just like to pretend, just like when you play.
I know this may be after the fact but I thought I'd offer some advice.
My husband is Muslim and I was raised Catholic but we will not be raising our children one or the other since we both consider ourselves agnostic
Will you be seeing any of your family around Christmas? You can tell your children that Santa is a man who brings toys to those who celebrate the birth of Jesus, if your family does, they could give him some toys "from Santa" - this may be blurring the lines a bit between celebrating and not celebrating but its worked for some friends of mine.
Or, you could just wait until the next Eid and give him the toy then, obviously not saying its from Santa
Hope this helps!
Well this is a little late, but here's my experience:
DS is too young to understand now, but in the future we plan to really make a big deal out of the Eids. This way when he asks why we don't celebrate in December, we can remind him that we already had 2 big celebrations. I try to avoid malls and places where Xmas things are on display, but it was pretty hard since both of my neighbors in our townhome had over-the-top, garish decorations. I have some friends who tell their kids that Santa/trees/etc etc etc are "haram" but these kids aren't in public school. It's difficult because you don't want you children doing it but you also don't want them to come across as negative to non-Muslims!
I'm surprised that a public school has a tree. When I was a teacher we wouldn't not have been allowed to do such a thing (of course some teachers still snuck in holiday celebrations). You might want to talk to the teacher about being more inclusive next year!
Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents are all cultural. They predate Christianity the religion and are not found in the Christian Bible. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents are part of American culture. Why would you deprive your child of American culture? If there are any other unique cultural things from your or your husband's culture you would like to share I am sure you can share those in the classroom for show and tell. This way the children can learn about other cultures.
Hate is not good for anyone. We should love. Love American culture, Santa, Christmas trees, presents. As a Muslim or another religion you don't have to worry that you are teaching religion to your child if that is your fear. Educate yourself. You will find that Christmas trees and presents, predate Christianity. They are fun and not to be hated and shunned due to hatred. Christmas trees and Santa are not written about in the Christian Bible because that is not where they originated. Different cultures created a Santa Claus like figure at different points in time. Santa Claus is but a person symbolizing good will, kindness, generosity, what is to hate there (maybe there is a person in Arab or Islamic culture who was like Santa Claus, someone who was generous, same thing), Make the connection that is to be made or do you find generous, kind, giving people to be repulsive? I myself like generous, kind people and feel if my children are exposed to people like that the world will become a better place. Christmas trees were loved long before Christianity because frankly they are pretty. A decorated tree, now really why go ballistic about that? Put symbols of your culture on it. I saw a very nice Christmas tree in a Chinese store loaded with beautiful Chinese decorations and I thought now these store owners are smart. They get it! When I went to public school a long time ago none of the decorations on the tree were religious. I strongly doubt that any of the decorations on the tree in the school your child goes to are anything but secular and pretty. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, presents, are all nice international symbols of goodness & fun and call them holiday trees if it will make you feel better (I don't hate Christians so I just call them Christmas trees). Please, don't teach your children to be nasty, hateful, grinches.