Why I Don’t Celebrate Christmas MAG

October 18, 2015
By Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
17 articles 0 photos 4 comments

“What are you putting on your Christmas wishlist?” my overly enthusiastic friend asked me.

“Well, nothing. I don’t actually celebrate it,” I said uncomfortably.

She blinked at me. “Why not?”

“I’m not Christian …” I said, even more uncomfortably. I was really hoping that she was not going to ask what my religion was.

“Yeah, but you can still put up a tree and do the non-religious stuff, right?”

I grew up in a pretty rigid Muslim household. Currently I attend boarding school, so I am not surrounded by the cultural pressures of my home. For most of my life I did not have much chance to think for myself, and I considered religion a hereditary thing that you just were. Now that I am forming my own opinions about the world, I am currently an atheist. Maybe I won’t always be, but at this point in my life, I am certainly not a Christian.

I formulate most of my ideas and beliefs from learning and through experiences at the all-girls school I attend. Of course, with 300 girls crammed into our campus, ideas circulate freely. One belief that almost everyone endorses is feminism. Everyone has a different idea of what it actually means. To some, feminism is an ideology that breeds man-hating atheists (whom I think are bigots). To me, feminism is simply the idea that everyone should have equal rights. I am a supporter of intersectional feminism, which means the inclusion of people of different abilities, races, genders, sexualities, etc.

A big aspect of feminism is recognizing cultural appropriation, which means adopting aspects of a culture that is not yours. One example is a white person having dreadlocks or cornrows, which are an icon of the black culture. Other examples include the appropriation of Native American tribal prints and henna tattoos from South Asia and the Middle East.

Turning one aspect of a culture into a trend is disrespectful because it is treating that culture like a disposable prop or costume that is in style with no deeper context or meaning. Now, you might be wondering this has to do with Christmas. Well, in basic terms, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christian savior. Most people assume that there is no such thing as appropriation of white, Christian culture, since it is the dominant group in the United States, but I think this is not true.

When I was younger I knew a girl who read the Bible between classes and in any other free time. She was bullied by peers, called a “Jesus freak,” and assumed to be homophobic because she was devoted to Christianity. Of course she loved Christmas as well as the joys of tree decorating, baking cookies, and Santa, but she also recognized the religious significance of the day.

Now, these same bullies probably celebrated Christmas too – or at least the parts of Christmas that they wanted to (i.e. the fun parts). I have met people of different religions who celebrate Christmas this way, without any religious devotion. But I consider this hypocrisy. Of course, I am offended when my culture is appropriated, so I would never try to claim a part of someone else’s. I grew up in a household where only Indian food was prepared – strong-smelling food that my parents would eat with their hands. My friends called our food gross and made fun of my parents for eating with their hands. Kids at school would torment me about the thickness of my eyebrows, my parents’ accents, our Middle Eastern clothes, and that at times I would accidentally say words in Hindi.

In response to the bullying, I stripped myself of any connection to my cultural roots. I told my parents that I did not want to learn Hindi or visit India, I even stopped eating Indian cuisine, and started to wax my eyebrows pencil thin.

A few weeks ago, my school cafeteria served Indian food. I was with my white friend when I mispronounced the name of one of the food items.

“You said it wrong. Aren’t your parents from India?” she asked, laughing.

“Yeah, I’m Indian,” I said, feeling awkward.

“Hon, sorry to break it to you, but you’re not Indian at all,” she said jokingly.

I was very offended but tried to hide it. All I was thinking in that moment was: I ditched my roots so white people would stop judging me. I let myself be white-washed. Now, just because you like to take pictures of yourself with a henna tattoo and a bindi, and try Indian food, you’re more Indian than me? Get over yourself.

But instead, I just smiled. And started crafting this article.

Back to my main point, the girl who was called a “Jesus freak” was tormented for most of her childhood. Where do people get off invalidating her or anyone else’s experience of appropriation just because she is white and Christian? Who am I to expect people to stop trying to style up my culture and copy and paste the trendy parts of my roots, when some minorities fail to recognize that they are doing the same thing?

I hope that your main take away is that you should partake of your culture, be proud of your culture, YOUR culture. Respect other cultures, but do not steal their traditions. Sure, bake cookies. Put poinsettias in your house. String up holiday lights. But don’t celebrate Christmas unless you are Christian. Appropriation really does go both ways.

The author's comments:

Let's look at the big picture for once, and not just assume that whites are priveleged to all matters pertaining to human rights 

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This article has 11 comments.

Farha GOLD said...
on Dec. 17 2017 at 12:51 pm
Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
17 articles 0 photos 4 comments
Thank you for your thoughts, Elinapa. However, I don't think you read my piece carefully. I never claimed that anyone should let go of their culture. My "choice" to let go of my culture was not a choice at all, to me. It was something I did to relieve bullying, and as I go on to say, is horrible that I was put in that position. So while it may be easy for you to sit wherever you are and point a finger at me saying your "problem" with me, maybe you should point that finger at a society so grossly endorsed today by our government that perpetuates xenophobia and racism.

Elinapa BRONZE said...
on Oct. 29 2017 at 10:53 pm
Elinapa BRONZE, St. Paul, Minnesota
1 article 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
Do not Follw the crowd,follow what your guts tell you and you'll be satisfied with yourself later in life do it early when you're still a teenager

Maeve McDevitt Sorry but I'm not a Muslim. I'm an observant Catholic. I do agree with you that Christmas should be for the Christians and it has gotten way too commercial. My problem with this article (it actually should be with you) Just because you're in a boarding school where there's no other Muslims doesn't mean that you should let go of your religion or culture. In whatever choice you make the almighty God is there too . I think God works in the lives of those who don't believe in God whether you believe it to be true or not. You'll be in my prayers!

on Jul. 3 2017 at 2:11 am
Excellent article,well written and concise. But cultural appropriation is not a thing. Share your culture with others, no one owns culture, you may be born in it which makes you an excellent source for someone who wishes to learn about it. But to claim appropriation is repressive. Whether or not someone is using someone's culture as a trend is irrelevant, people have a right to do what they wish with their bodies. Take pride in the fact that someone is enjoying your culture rather than offense. The U.S. is called a melting pot for a reason. (I assume you are American.

on Jan. 23 2016 at 2:15 pm
I believe that the world has truly cheapened Christmas, and I was truly was disgusted at Krampus, that someone would turn an innocent holiday into a horror movie, but yet I disagree with final lines, that Christmas should only be celebrated by Christians. I'm a Christian, and while I believe that the world should stop cheapening Christmas, I don't believe it should be a christian-only holiday, because the whole point of Christmas is to share the glory of the birth of Jesus. But I agree that society should stop cheapening cultures and things like that.

Farha GOLD said...
on Jan. 9 2016 at 12:42 am
Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
17 articles 0 photos 4 comments
Thanks! Great photo :)

Ipilato said...
on Jan. 3 2016 at 10:27 am
Ipilato, Bound Brook, New Jersey
0 articles 5 photos 1 comment
Hiya Farha, I'm Ike! My shattering ornament photo was used for your article in the print December edition. I just wanted to congratulate and thank you for your brilliant insight. I have never been more happy to see a photo of mine used so appropriately alongside a credible issue in today's society. I actually recently used appropriation of Native American cultures as the subject of a report recently so it really makes me glad to see that my work has been published with a like-minded article. Thank you for spreading knowledge, and congrats again for your publication

Farha GOLD said...
on Dec. 22 2015 at 2:33 pm
Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
17 articles 0 photos 4 comments
@TheEmptyUniverse Hi, yes it is. To some black people, they don't care, but to others, it can be highly offensive. Like said in the article, it is taking major parts of another culture for selfish benefit. In the past, black people have been insulted or even forced to cut off their dreadlocks. Even flagrantly in today's society, black people face discrimination, especially if they have dreadlocks, because a lot of people have a bias towards this hairstyle when it is on a black person. When a white person, or anyone for that matter who is not black, adopts this hairstyle, they often are doing it to fit their PERSONALITY and want to seem edgy or trendy. While when a black person wears it, they may be seen as dangerous or trashy. Black people are still under white systematic control which sucks, because that means white people can decide what people can and can't do (aka which people) so the fight against cultural appropriation is acknowledging sub conscious (or blatant) racism. If you want more information on this topic, you should check out the facebook page "Everyday Feminism" or search on Youtube about this topic and hear it more directly from a black person, because a black person's experience with cultural appropriation may be different than my experiences with it.

on Dec. 18 2015 at 3:47 pm
KawaiiCooper DIAMOND, Winter Garden, Florida
56 articles 0 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I'm well acquainted with villains that live in my head."

So let me get this straight... if someone likes dreadlocks and gets them but isn't black, that's wrong?

on Dec. 9 2015 at 1:00 pm
23 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
bravest of you are not those who can defeat a lion but the ones who can defeat anger

Heyy!! I am an Indian and in India. Wanna have some biryani???

Farha GOLD said...
on Nov. 24 2015 at 11:39 am
Farha GOLD, Chester, New York
17 articles 0 photos 4 comments
Thank you :)

on Nov. 21 2015 at 11:04 am
Lucy-Agnes PLATINUM, Clarksville, Ohio
22 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world." - Justice Antonin Scalia

Wow! This is a really neat and thought-provoking article! I never thought about it that way, but you're right - Christmas is a religious holiday, and it should offend Christians when the world tries to take it and make it into what it isn't. Thank you so much for writing this, and for being so beautifully respectful of other religions! I really appreciate that and admire you for being able to write such an open-minded and yet backboned piece. :)God bless you! :)

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