Father pleads his case for Christmas lights, despite raising his children as Muslim
I like Christmas. I like most of the traditional baggage that comes along with Christmas, too. Burl Ives. Mistletoe. Pine needles embedded in the shag carpet. The high suicide rate. Bing Crosby bedecked in a Santa hat while crooning. Hall & Oates’ version of Jingle Bell Rock. All good. Christmas-time has always been fun for me. It was fun when I was a kid. Chasing down my brother as my family hunted for a real tree. Nervous sleep as the network channels reported their Santa sightings. Then the deluge of Star Wars figurines. The Millennium fucking Falcon. Yeah, those were good times. Christmas was also fun as an alcohol-sodden young man. Time and cheer on my side. And, hell, it’s still fun as an alcohol-sodden middle-aged family man whose balls are getting saggier and more warped by the minute.
I like Christmas. So, as they say, sue me, you prick.
What’s the problem you ask? Why am I telling you about my fascination with Christmas and rock’s most-prized moustaches (Burl Ives’ ain’t bad neither!)?
Well, I’m afraid my future Christmas celebrations might be in jeopardy. Scary, eh?
Let me explain: I married a Muslim woman. The end. No, just kidding. It’s not the end. It’s not even the beginning. And it’s not really a problem, this Muslim woman, or the marriage. You could even say that it’s a blessing, though, hopefully, you wouldn’t be using it in the religious sense of the word. It’s a good thing, my marriage. We have offspring. My progeny. My swimmer. She’s almost three years old, and she rules. I love her and my wife very much. We want to have more kids, too. Stupid as that sounds.
Myself? I’m not one for faith. However, I fully respect my wife’s silly beliefs and arcane notions. We’ve also agreed to bring up the children as Muslims. Hypocritical? Maybe. But I believe having faith is a good thing. It’s just not for me. If my daughter takes to it, great. Let the brainwashing begin. We’re all damaged goods one way or another. If she doesn’t take to it? Well, I’ll love her that much more. If that’s even possible.
Anyway, interfaith (or someone with faith and someone with no faith) marriages are nothing new. Jews and Christians. Muslims and Hindus. Wiccans and Magicians. It’s all been done before. And successfully, I might add. The struggle to coexist and respect everyone’s traditions isn’t new territory.
The fact is, I celebrate Christmas. My wife doesn’t. Again, it’s really not a huge problem, certainly nothing that threatens the future of our marriage or anything, but with my daughter being more cognizant of the world these days, we could all stand to be more considerate of each other’s holiday celebrations. Meaning my wife. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.
Here’s the incident that brought this self-interested discussion to the forefront: As we were tucking my daughter into bed the other night—she’s finally sleeping by herself—my daughter asked my wife about Christmas lights.
“Mommy, can we get some Christmas lights?” she said and snuggled her sweet fucking face into the pillow. Much as you’d like to think I put my daughter up to this, I didn’t. As childish as I can be sometimes, I’m really quite capable of (eventually) discussing most subjects with my wife rationally. Also, it’s never been a big rivalry, Ramadan versus Christmas. We just haven’t hashed out the particulars of our holiday celebrations yet.
My wife’s response?
“We don’t celebrate Christmas.” Said without even blinking. Not cold. Not cruel. Just matter-of-fact.
Now, it’s really not a problem hearing those words. From my standpoint, I understand that a Muslim does not celebrate Christmas. I’m not stupid. Neither is my daughter. But I wanted to hear something more… I don’t know, would “accepting” be the right word? Maybe. Anyway, I’m not sure if I can even care to categorize it, but do you know maybe what I would’ve liked to hear my wife say instead? It’s just a simple amendment, really:
“We don’t celebrate Christmas, but daddy does.”
There. That’s it. Takes care of all my issues. What I really wanted to hear my wife say was: “We don’t celebrate Christmas, but Daddy does, and we’ve talked about this and maybe we can go out and get some Christmas lights after I satisfy him orally tonight.” Or something to that effect. Doesn’t have to be exact. I could give two shits about the lights, really. Though they do make my drinking more festive.
To my wife’s eyes, Christmas stands for Christianity and all the bullshit (and it is bullshit) that goes along with it. It’s the birth of Jesus. Or, as Linus says in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Lights please…” and then I don’t really know the rest, something about barnyard animals?—I tend to block out religious screeds. Anyway, you get the gist and, as we all know, the world has gone completely batshit over this Christian holiday. They’re winning. So with every commercial on television cramming Christmas cheer down our fat American throats, I can see why my wife might be sour on acceptance.
This hype and this over-commercialization, though, is exactly the point: Christmas isn’t about the birth of Jesus. Not for me and my family, anyway. Like most red-blooded Americans, I’ve never associated Christmas with religion. Like my father, and his father before him, I come from a long-standing line of proud non-believers. Actually, ‘non-believers’ is not really the lump of humanity I want to be mixed in with. It’s more like… The Disinterested. Yeah. The Disinterested. I like that better. Religion. Christ. God. Blah blah blah. Am I an atheist? Am I agnostic? Who cares?
Thus, the disinterest.
My side of the family and I celebrate Christmas, though it has nothing to do with faith, whatever that may be. Christmas is simply a joyful time of the year where I can get together with family and friends and eat heavily and drink recklessly and be merry while the cold wind is whipping around the homeless outside.
‘Tis the season. Right?
Anyway, as you can tell, this whole “We don’t celebrate Christmas” thing bothered me. It stuck in my craw, as they say. Now, I’ve been with my wife for nearly ten years now, and every year we travel to my parents house near Detroit for Christmas. She knows we don’t bring no Jesus into the Chex Mix. It’s typical fare. My parents have a fake tree. They have a wreath on the door. Presents. Tinsel. Lights. My mom makes a standing rib-roast for Christmas day. We drink wine. Pop Valium. Stick our dicks in the figgy pudding.
Traditions, man. Get with it.
Anyway, my wife doesn’t complain. She’s right there with us enjoying this time with aforementioned family and friends. My parents and my brother and sister all get my wife (and now my daughter) presents each year. It’s nice and drama free. We’ve even supplanted the Christmas Eve ham for turkey-ham, which is an abomination, by the way. Dry and mealy instead of salty and luscious? Stupid. The turkey is no match for the pig. Anyway, don’t misconstrue. We include my Muslim wife in all of our celebrations. She’s not outside sitting in a cold car and cursing a shoddy Jewish carpenter while we’re inside celebrating. No way.
So again, what’s the fucking problem? Your wife didn’t tell your daughter that you celebrate Christmas? Big deal? Well, it’s not a big deal, really, but my parents will soon die. They will. They’re nearing their mid 70s, and dying is simply on their “to do” list. No need to get teary-eyed now, okay? Save that for another session with the therapist. The real challenge after my parents take the dirt nap will be, “Will I carry on the tradition of Christmas celebration with my own family?”
Or will the tradition die along with my parents? Or can we come up with a new sort of celebration that will make everyone happy? Both Muslims and The Disinterested alike?
We haven’t gotten there yet. But whatever we decide, I don’t want to be left out of the equation. For me, family and Christmas go hand in hand. And I want my wife and child to be involved in my Christmas celebrations. The real question out of all of this is: Why can’t my wife strip away the religious aspect of Christmas just like our family did? It’s not so hard. I’m not asking her to attend midnight mass, not that I would involve myself with such a colossal waste of time. But hey, let’s get some lights. Maybe a tree. Some rum balls. Gobs of fruitcake. It’s simple. And it’s harmless fun. Except for those god damn pine needles!
Anyway, when I heard “We don’t celebrate Christmas” spout from my wife’s beautiful if crooked mouth, it discouraged me. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard it this holiday season, either. And it took a few times to really sink in. But, eventually, again, after the ‘rents kick it, I want traditions of my own. I want to prepare for the Christmas Future. Pre-child, I never thought about future Christmas celebrations because my parents were carrying the torch. But who will later? My spinster sister? My alcoholic brother? Not bloody likely.
So, all I want for Christmas is to be acknowledged, not cut out or separated from my family because of different religious beliefs. Even The Disinterested have feelings. Anyway, that would be a start. We don’t celebrate Christmas is such a hard line to swallow. For a child. For a husband. For anyone. This whole we thing should include me, don’t you think? Even if I am the exception?
Because I certainly don’t object when I’m included in the celebration of the Muslim holidays like Ramadan or Eid. As a proud and stout believer of The Disinterested, I don’t celebrate either of these very religious holidays, but there I am, year after year, taking Allah right out of the picture and having fun with her side of the family and friends and stuffing my face with thick, buttery Bosnian pastries and risking the free-fall into the depths of coronary heart disease. You know how much butter they put in baklava? Fucking Christ! It’s a killer!
So why do I do all of that? Why do I willingly join in the fun and festivities of another person’s religious holiday? Even though that holiday means zilch to me?
Because it’s the right fucking thing to do. It’s a celebration, that’s why. And Kool & The Gang wrote a great song about celebrating. Let’s ALL celebrate and have a good time. It’s simple. Regardless of your faith. I don’t normally celebrate Ramadan, but mommy does, and while she’s still around, so will I. Be happy for your fellow man. He or she is celebrating something special to them, religious or not. Why go out of your way to shit on the parade?
Now bugger off and Happy Holidays. I have to go talk to my wife.
—Photo by _zhang/Flickr