Stranger in a Winter Wonder Land

Local writer and mother reflects on how not everyone celebrates Christmas

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By Nida Ammar

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away; 6000 miles away to be exact, lived Nida with her beautiful family and friends. They had wonderful times, ate Mansaf and a bunch of delicious other dishes, they had some good family time and an endless number of cousins of whom she really only knows about 20.

One day, they decided to move (obviously, 6000 miles away) to a land where Christmas

No matter where you are from or what holiday it is, Mansaf should probably be on the menu. Considered the national dish of Jordan.

was celebrated by every living person, and that was all right, except that, Nida and her family do not celebrate Christmas for reasons that have to do with their faith. But since this Christmas land always seems so glowing around Christmas time, Nida decided to find a way to navigate through it.

With a very, and I mean VERY, inquisitive 5-year-old at her heels, she was barraged with a million questions a minute: Why don’t we have a Christmas tree? Why can’t we buy ornaments? How come I don’t get presents? Why don’t I participate in the school Christmas celebration?  But we live here now, why can’t we just blend in? Why is the sky blue? Who ate my pie?

On and on she went, and since Nida is a mother, she had to come up with an answer for every single question!  So she took a deep breathe and calmly answered:

  • We do not have a Christmas tree at our house because we do not celebrate this occasion. See, Christmas is celebrated by Christians (and anyone who likes to celebrate it) and since we are of a different faith, we do not.
  • We do not buy the ornaments because they are supposed to be hung on a Christmas Tree, not randomly around your room.
  • Answer to why no presents one: You do not get presents this minute because you just got a mountain of presents for your birthday. Also, money doesn’t grow on trees, Christmas or otherwise.
  • Answer to why I don’t get presents two (obviously a common question):I think donation centers have had enough of seeing me hauling in bags and bags of your old presents.
  • You do not participate in the school party because mommy is trying her best to be consistent and not confuse you.
  • We blend in; we sent you to school, we participate in activities, we serve the community in many different ways. But blending in does not mean plunging yourself into every single thing and forgetting who you are. We are a loving Muslim family who have a culture and traditions and teachings that we go by. Blending in does not mean erasing all that and just doing what others do without truly understanding what it stands for. We blend in by respecting what others believe while maintaining our own beliefs. (Mommy may have shortened this answer, in times of stress, to “We blend in just fine young lady…”)
  • As for the color of the sky and who ate your pie? This is the wrong article and mommy’s publisher Chris has been telling her to be more focused in her writing.
Publisher’s note: Nida, you did great keeping this article focused. Tell your daughter that the sky is blue due to the scattering of certain wavelengths of sunlight. Beyond that she can ask her father. And speaking of who ate her pie, probably her father. Back to our story…

There were many other questions that Nida got from her neighbors but the most annoying of them all is “how can you not do Christmas?!?”. And to them she always said “well, how can you not do Ramadan?”. That usually ends the discussion.

Every December, she would try to watch some TV, but navigating through Netflix full of cheesy Christmas fairy tale movies gets on her nerves.  So, as a distraction, she goes to the store to run some errands and loses her mind over displays of $400 toy cars that need

A Hatchimal. Somewhere between kitschy and creepy….

a garage of their own and $200 Hatchimals that, well, no one really understands those things anyway. She always thought that holidays were the time for family to get together, eat well, and share fellowship, not to spend all your money after working hard all year then begin January fresh with a “clean” bank account.

In the end, everyone celebrates special times in their own way. As for Nida, she will spend this Christmas eve sipping hot chocolate and watching her children get ready for bed while planning what kind of cookies she will bake the next morning.

Not really. Both of her children are under five. She will fall asleep before her kids do and who knows what breakfast they will get the next morning. Getting them dressed and fed first thing in the morning is a miracle, Christmas or otherwise.

From our household to yours, safe, peaceful and joyous holidays and Happy New Year!

Nida Ammar is the the Communications Lead for CCTRONIC, a design engineering firm focusing on helping farmers and agriculture producers improve their output and efficiency while preserving and respecting the environment. She is also a regular contributor for RSL, including feature articles and providing information for Shoppers on Site. When not writing Nida rides herd on her two kids, one husband and lives in downtown Toledo.