Christmas music makes me cringe, unless it’s “Last Christmas”by George Michael. The sounds of strange old songs blaring through loudspeakers in retail stores doesn’t ring nostalgic for me, it just grates, like those cheesy tunes you would rather forget but aren’t given the opportunity to.
I may sound like a Grinch but nothing about North American Christmas traditions is sentimental to me because I grew up Muslim, in a Muslim country. Dec. 25 was just another day of winter break in my house, when my brother and I would watch endless hours of television as most ’90s kids did on days off from school.
When I first came to Canada, I was charmed by Christmas light displays, and festive markets selling handmade ornaments and hot cider. That charm wore off as expectations to participate fully were thrust upon me by friends and Catholic in-laws.
For those who have known Christmas their entire lives, it is difficult to try to understand the perspective of someone like me, who did not grow up with the same traditions.
Eid-al-Fitr, the feast day that marks the end of Ramadan, was the equivalent of Christmas for me growing up. We ate delicious food every night during Ramadan, and on Eid we gobbled up sweets and wore new clothes. I wanted to recreate these traditions for my own children who were born in Canada and will grow up far from their Muslim relatives. It felt like an impossible challenge because Christmas was too overpowering to compete with.