Christmas and Muslims: Tradition vs. Religion

Christmas and Muslims: Tradition vs. Religion

I've been running behind with various stories, and so only now I've gotten around to some of the Christmas stories. While I was summarizing them up, I realized they all revolve around the same motif: Is Christmas a religious holiday or a traditional national-cultural holiday?

Muslims should go to church

Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Centre Party) says Norwegian Muslims should visit churches (h/t Hodja) during the Christmas holiday, in order to understand Norway and Norwegians better.

He says Norwegian Christian traditions are part of Norwegian history and culture that immigrants would be better off knowing. He also says non-Christians should send their children to school Christmas services, so they will see the similarities between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and learn about the traditions and rituals, and understand the customs better: why we have Christmas and why it's important.

Vedum also emphasizes that ethnic Norwegians should visit mosques and the ceremonies of other religions.

Mehtab Afsar, General Secretary of the Islamic Council of Norway, was positive about the idea, but said it happens more often than people think. It's not uncommon for people to visit each other's holy places and to attend each other's ceremonies. Muslims increasingly participate in cultural Christmas celebrations, even if they don't participate in the religious aspects.

"I love Christmas"

Following up on the previous story, there were various columns by Muslims on how they see Christmas.

A Danish Muslim wrote that she's a practicing Muslim, but when she was young Christmas time was always marked at home with the customary Danish foods. The children watched the traditional Christmas shows on TV and sang along to all the songs. In the past few years she'd been invited to celebrate Christmas with friends and their families. She writes she feels lucky to be allowed into her friend's homes on such an important evening. She asks that people consider celebrating a traditional Danish Christmas with unconventional input: like a young woman who represents the opposite of Christmas, but has learned to embrace so much of the year's best holiday.

A Dutch Muslim writes that this year she'll be celebrating with a Christmas tree in the house. They've always celebrated Christmas at home: eating the traditional foods, watching the Christmas films on TV. One of her daughters goes to a Protestant school, and has been coming home singing beautiful Christmas hymns. This year her daughter asked for a tree at home, just like her classmates. She wants the tree as well, since it makes the living room more homey and snug. Besides, if Christians could adopt the Christmas tree from pagan customs, so can she. And it would make her daughter happy.

Christmas at school

There have been various stories in Denmark about school dropping Christmas traditions out of consideration for Muslim students. School inspector Torben Mørup (Kvaglund school), says in his school students will participate in the Christmas event, which includes going to Church. "It's tradition, not religion," he says.

For the past five years the school did not go to church services, but they're now bringing it back.

"It's also an opportunity to show the non-Danish children who people celebrate Christmas in Denmark, and I hope many will participate in it." Participation is voluntary and there were other arrangements for those who did not want to go to church.