Mum, it’s Christmas!
My son asked me if we can celebrate Christmas. I remember having a similar conversation during Halloween. Apparently all Muslims are doing it these days. They have the decorated Christmas trees, ornaments, Christmas lunch and of course most importantly, the presents.
I thought my son was rationalising the urge to respect all our prophets peace be upon them. I thought maybe he wanted to learn more about Isa (Jesus) Alayhis Salaam. I was a little perturbed by his innocent request, but I just kept calm and asked him what Christmas was about.
“It’s about the presents,” he said quite matter-of-factly. “I just want to open wrapped up presents.” All this while I thought Christmas was some misguided celebration of the birth of a prophet, but the more I looked around, the less I saw of anything reminiscent of his birth (which was never on December 25th to begin with) and the more I see of this Satan (I mean Santa) chap.
The Gift of Giving
My heart sank. Didn’t he get enough gifts from us? All the Lego sets, all the things we buy him every month that he secretly adds to the grocery cart, all the books and little toys he asks for when we go out? Isn’t he getting enough presents?
I was stunned. I asked him about all the toys already lying across his room.
“Yes mummy, but you never give them to me wrapped up,” he says.
Was he correct? I tried to think back. We always buy him stuff and hand it to him soon after we buy it, even if it is a gift. Most times he is in the store with us picking it out. I can’t recall wrapping them up and giving it to him, not even for Eid.
I felt bad. I felt like I forgot what a gift means to a child. Yes, he is getting stuff from us, but to him these are just things. They are not given in the spirit of gift giving. I have been a lazy parent. I haven’t been making each gift giving experience a meaningful one. It was just about buying him stuff.
Making an Effort with Gifts
I was a little relieved. If gifts were the only reason he wanted to participate in this festival, then I am sure we could work around it. We have two major celebrations a year. Our Eids are supposed to be something kids look forward to all year, every year. Now our kids are looking forward to Christmas and feel like they are missing out.
I admittedly have not thought about making more of an effort until now. This was all new to me to begin with, having not been raised a Muslim myself. I didn’t know what to expect. Now I see that it is something we, as Muslim parents, need to put a little more effort into.
The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, تهادوا، تحابوا, exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another. [Bukhari]
Revive the Sunnah
Gift giving is a Sunnah practice. We should give gifts to our loved ones from time to time just to show how much we care. This also means there should not be “special days” that we wait for once a year in order to give those gifts.
Your mother or father should not wait for their annual mother’s or father’s day gifts from you because that day may never come. Your children should not wait until their birthdays or any other day to have your full attention and something special just for them.
We need to spend less effort on the annual ‘when’ of gift giving and more effort on the ‘how.’ A gift in Islam is a token of goodwill. The intention is to make the other person happy and gain Allah’s favour. It can be a token of comfort, affection, regard, respect and friendship.
It is related by Ayesha that the Apostle of God said: “Exchange presents with one another. Presents remove ill-will from the hearts.” [Tirmizi]
With that being said, we will NOT be having funeral wreaths or a pagan tree with tinsel resembling coiled snakes and we will definitely not be displaying our offerings of gifts underneath it like “all the other Muslim kids are doing” these days as my son insists.
We will be giving gifts, whenever we feel like it, at any time of the year, with a little more effort, wrapped with love and given with good intentions.