Now it seems like it’s pretty clear we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas when it is a religious holiday that is not part of our beliefs (we don’t celebrate our Prophet’s birthday either and historically, they are pretty sure that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th). These issues get complicated when you have non-Muslim relatives though. I looked it up extensively when I was a new Muslim and then pretty much stuck by that for the past decade.
Basically, so far as wishing anyone a happy or merry Christmas, I am not supposed to do that as it is considered the equivalent of congratulating them in their disbelief. My family doesn’t necessarily understand that, so it’s a little hard to get around that without offending anyone, but I have mostly managed it.
I am also not supposed to give presents to specifically mark the occasion. I can give them presents on other occasions. I am allowed to accept their presents in the interest of maintaining good relations as long as they are not presents that are haram or of a religious nature. Strangely enough, my dad and my aunt have mostly not seemed to notice that I am not giving them presents. In fact, almost every year, they ask me about how I’m doing with my Christmas shopping. My mom probably confuses that issue somewhat because she sometimes gives my aunt a present and signs my name to it.
I find it kind of amusing that pretty much from the beginning, my mom has given me Islamic themed Christmas presents. One year she gave me an entire boxed set of Sahih al-Bukhari (not an inexpensive gift). She often gives me abayas and hijab.
My mom declared to my sister this year that we should not have a problem with celebrating Christmas because it is secular anyway. My sister disagreed that it is secular, but she said to my mom that actually all the Santa stuff disturbs her more than the Jesus stuff. My mom could understand that.
In one of my sociology classes, the professor referred to it as the religion of Santa Claus, and he really does have a point. Santa is attributed special powers. He “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.” He “knows when you’ve been bad or good,” and he rewards or punishes if you’ve been good or bad. And it’s all about belief. In all of those Christmas specials, it’s always about whether they “believe” in Santa. Also, in pretty much all those Christmas specials about “saving” Christmas, it’s always implied that there “won’t be a Christmas,” if the children don’t get their presents. Worshiping materialism. If I were a Christian even, I think I would find some of these ideas disturbing or contrary to my beliefs.
As a child I vaguely believed in Santa the way you just accept what adults tell you when you are little. I thought he must be real if they track his progress on the news and my parents and everyone say he is, but he didn’t really have a place in my world either. I was expected to remember who every present was from in order to properly thank them, and even the ones that said from Santa, we knew who they were from. My parents tried to get around this by saying that Santa helped with delivering the presents, but since we went around delivering presents to all our relatives houses on Christmas Eve, and they likewise delivered presents to our house, this really didn’t make much sense either. So there you go! A vague belief that Santa existed but no clear idea as to his actual role or relevance.