Christmas is a Problem

I kind of hate to confess this. Particularly since I’m just now getting to know some of you. But the truth is: I have a problem with Christmas.

December in America is a tough time for me.

A lot of people don’t understand that. They say Christmas has become so secularized that it isn’t a religious holiday anymore, just a cultural ones. If that were true, it might be okay, but there’s a lot of Christians who are upset about the commercialization of their holiday and upset that the religious meaning is being removed, so they are forcibly trying to put it back in. And (I find) being very obnoxious in the process.

Some people say, wish Christians a merry Christmas and help them enjoy their holiday and they will help you celebrate yours. Except hardly anyone knows my holidays or when they are. I have to listen to a million “merry Christmases” in December and I got maybe four “Happy Diwalis” in November.

I know, I know, I sound super bratty when I complain about this.

It’s not really a complaint. I just want to explain why I feel a little grouchy around Christmas time. It isn’t my holiday. It is part of a religion that I haven’t had happy dealings with in the past. I look for acknowledgement from the religious majority that being in the religious minority in a given country is challenging.

You can’t go anywhere in America in December without having Christmas shoved down your throat. I don’t think Christians would appreciate it if the same thing happened with the holiday of any other religion. It’s fine if you want to celebrate it, but why do I need to hear the music, see the decorations, and hear people talking about your holiday non stop for weeks? My office has Christmas decorations; the restaurant where I go to lunch has Christmas decorations; my apartment complex shoved a Christmas card under my door; the radio has Christmas music; the stores have Christmas music; message boards and emails are full of people telling me to “put Christ back in Christmas.” I can’t go anywhere without it accosting me. It’s irritating. Especially because when it was Diwali, there was no such enthusiasm!

One of the things I most love about America is freedom of religion. Most of the time I leave people alone about my religion and they leave me alone about theirs. It’s a beautiful thing!

I know I should chill and let them have Christmas. As someone on my Facebook said, that’s their freedom of speech (another freedom I value extremely highly). But our society tends to be polite in terms of limiting our speech to keep from hurting the feelings of others. Some don’t like that and think it’s too wimpy or something. They like to be mean to people in the guise of “just being honest.” I like that we take some care to restrain ourselves so everyone feels comfortable and welcome. I really appreciate the people who use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” when speaking to people whose religion they don’t know. It’s a kindness.

What am I asking for? A realization that not everyone is celebrating Christmas. A realization that having someone else’s religious holiday in your face all day every day for a month puts one on edge.

If you are the majority religion in your country, pause for a moment to realize that it isn’t easy to be the minority. No one decorates from my holidays, but they expect me to be happy about theirs.

As I said, I know I sound like a brat when I say this, but I think we need to express our feelings so we all stay aware of how what we do affects each other. There’s a lot of people who don’t understand why they should be “PC” and say “Happy Holidays.” I am the reason. Do it for me. Because it is the bare minimum of respect to acknowledge that Christmas is not my holiday. Christ means nothing to me.

I know plenty of Hindus who celebrate Christmas because it’s just another holiday and an opportunity for fun. I’d like to get to that point. I’m working on it, but I’m carrying some resentments against Christianity that I haven’t been able to release just yet.  I worry, though, that when I have children, they will not understand why we don’t celebrate the holidays of  most of their classmates. I don’t want them to feel left out as Christmas is being forced on us. I don’t know how to balance my frustration that I don’t want to celebrate a Christian holiday with making sure my children are happy. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, as they say.

How do you feel about holidays of other religions? If you don’t celebrate the dominant holiday of your area, how do you handle explaining that to your children?

For a much better perspective on this than mine, I hope you’ll read Ending the Contrived Muslim Controversy Over the Holiday Season. I really need to borrow that person’s way of looking at it!


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Gah!!! You understand my position!! I face this EVERY YEAR, and it wears me out… My stepmother is very Christian, though she lets me be, except for the Christmas cards and the Merry Christmas thing. I just return with the Winter Solstice thing, because the physical world is very much my reality (imagine working outside in 45-degree weather, picking vegetables when it’s wet and the wind is blowing hard), and the passage of the shortest day of the year is a VERY BIG thing for me because it signifies the lengthening of the short days here and the eventual warming days, though we got nasty surprises in March and even the first part of April in Texas this year. This past year, I went out to a local nature park, sat down with my didgeridoo, and played until it was dark, to celebrate the eventual passage of a hostile time of the year.

    See, Winter Solstice occurs a few days before Christmas so I would consider the celebrations around this time as a interfaith occasion – one celebrates Christmas while I celebrate the Winter Solstice. I say, “sohzookehkehbah hehlohhehgahrohgahvoh dahrohmeegahvee,” while the person says “Merry Christmas.” If someone is going to assume something for me, I will then establish my place in the person’s presence with my stand. Usually, it’s all one can do as a religious or spiritual minority, giving a bit of exposure to my mysterious way of existing to a person of a dominant faith. While we’re on the topic, it is just hours past the Summer Solstice, a time of mourning for me because of the passage of the longest day of the year, with shorter days to come and the eventual return to cold weather again.

    I see a parallel with monoglottism, or single-language usage. Usually, Americans only use ONE language fluently, and either doesn’t know any others fluently or squeaks by with one, while LOTS of people outside of the US are bilingual or more, and that comes from Americans being in a position of imperialism, a dominant power, of which Christianity is in most parts of the world. Language and faith imperialism goes hand-in-hand. I’ve been bilingual in English and American Sign Language for over half of my life. See, the knowledge of multiple languages indicates a desire to meet someone with a primary language other than your own half-way as a willingness to work together, a willingness to bridge that gap, and that concept of “meeting half-way” carries over to personal conduct of one’s faith in the presence of others who may not share your faith. In other words, imperialist Christians want to shake your hand, but only in a Christian way (meaning, they stick their hand right in front of themselves, forcing the other person to have to reach all the way to shake that hand held close by, metaphorically speaking). The message to such Christians is, “Hey, I know this is your holiday, but there are other holidays that run concurrently with yours, if not ON that day. Why don’t you meet people of other faiths half-way by acknowledging theirs?” I notice that stores always close on Thanksgiving (as one with Native American ancestry, DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THIS) and Christmas, but not on Diwali, Guru Purnima, Ramadan, and many other holidays. NEVER on these other holidays. Governments in the US do the same thing – what happened to the first amendment??

    • Ambaa

      So true! :)

  • Hidimbi Hidimbaa

    Hi Ambaa!

    Whoo, boy do I understand your frustrations towards Christmas. Christmas is just…annoying. They are not passive about Christmas, they are very in-your-face. It’s frustrating because it’s so inescapable. And that silver-bells song sounds like a horror movie sound track.

    The worst part is that Christmas legitimately makes them act crazy. They are crazy on the roads, they are crazy in the stores they are crazy in the airports…I wish they would take their own advice and put-Christ-back-in/stop being so commercialized, so that they would all just calm down a little bit. And the whole affair seems to last for nearly three months, starting off talking about “what are you doing for Christmas” and concluding with “what did everyone do/get for Christmas?”

    I’m going to throw really big extravagant birthdays for my children, and whey they ask why they don’t get any Christmas presents I’m going to inform them it’s because the Christian kids only get half their presents on their birthday’s and the other half at Christmas…


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