Let’s just be honest: Christmas is brilliant. I don’t celebrate it but I can see how enticing it is. It seems even more amazing now that I have my own child and I can see it through baby eyes all over again. The bright lights, the tree, the presents, the songs, the shiny, shiny things. Shops crack out tinsel, bunting and all manners of glitter; there are so many Christmas traditions that people often mash a few of them together to cover all bases: leave a stocking filled with cookies and mince pies out for Santa; put a wreath on the door and the tree; stick lights on the tree inside the house and all the trees outside too, just for good measure; wear a Christmas jumper and cover it in gingerbread. Everyone is rocking around the Christmas tree with a number of people dressed as Santa just in case someone forgets what he looks like. From September onwards (at least in the UK) everywhere you look, Christmas hits you in the face from every angle. I think I’m over-stimulated already and it’s only April.
Even people are nicer Christmas: everyone gets that festive cheer – unless they’re shopping of course, and then everyone’s miserable – as they wind down at work, ready for the Yuletide festivities. I found when I was teaching, the half term from October to December was more bearable as colleagues were just nicer, especially those who were rotten to begin with. Even teaching in a comprehensive secondary school with a Muslim majority, bizarrely, there was that festive feeling.
Add to that all the Christmas chocolate in the shops, the special food and the insane offers on anything and everything and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. I mean, you can even buy Christmas nappies for your kids so they can poo in a festively-wrapped bum. Amazing. And I don’t need to tell you about the rise of the Pinterest Mother Brigade; that there is a phenomenon worthy of academic study – and an entire blog post all on its own.
And it is this I feel I need to compete with when it comes to Eid. Yes, we have two Eids and Islam is amazing, but is Eid just as good as Christmas? Controversially, I don’t think it is. Now I’m expecting the fatwas commanding people to kill me to come flooding in at some point, but I hope it’s not quite so soon, and not about this blog post. It’d be better to write a novel and have it published first, so hold on before you go running to random Islamic clerics; I’ll get to the point, honest.
What we do at Eid is essentially this: wake up, eat something sweet, put on lovely new clothes, perhaps open presents, pray in the masjid, come home, eat, visit relatives, more eating, more relative-visiting, more eating. Minus the masjid and praying, it’s probably not much different to Christmas Day I’m told. But no, it’s different.
The major difference is the build up; the anticipation, the suspense, the ticking clock, the traditions; all these things make Christmas the more desirable holiday. Millions of children across the globe go to sleep on Christmas Eve, excited that a fat man in a red suit is going to break into their houses, violate their willing Mummy and leave them presents. Weeks and months of preparation goes into this: the Christmas lists, the decorations, the pre-Christmas dinner, the actual Christmas dinner. I’m exhausted just writing about it.
At this point, I expect some Muslims (who just don’t get it) to stop reading, shake their fist at the screen, maybe even mutter “Astaghfirullah ” (I ask Allah for forgiveness) under their breaths and remind themselves to pray for my soul. But deep down, they know that what they’re reading is true: we can’t compete with Christmas. Christmas is a multi-million pound business, run by glamorously-coiffed strangers in expensive business suits in conglomerates and mergers across the world, and Eid is, well it’s a corner shop, run by Mr. Patel and his family.
And that’s how it will appear to children in comparison with Christmas – however you raise them – they will still see the major difference between their festival and Christmas. Their friends at school will start talking about it as soon as October; teachers will set Christmas-themed projects, cards will be made, music will be played. I don’t need to tell people how unnaturally memorable Christmas songs are: Muslims reading this will nod, but never admit that they do like to “jingle all the way” to the shops during the festive season. You’re singing it right now, don’t pretend. Bizarrely, decorations will spring up in Muslim-majority countries like the UAE and Qatar, cementing the fact that they wish they celebrated Christmas too. And who wouldn’t? All the bright lights and glitter (and not just the decorative kind) are so entrancing; a smooth, inviting bare thigh on a curvaceous, sensual woman; the promise of pleasure, pure pleasure, no matter what the cost.
There’s the crux of it: the cost. Commercialism, materialism, consumerism. There is nothing wrong with spending money on festivals or celebrations – if you can afford to. But many can’t. But we’re told we’re must. “Shiny thing” must be acquired if Christmas is to be saved. That’s the message advertising sells us, and that’s what draws me in. Every single year. “Shiny Thing” could be anything from a bit of tinsel to a huge Christmas-themed party on the front lawn, complete with elves serving eggnog (I still have no clue what that stuff is – egg yes, but “nog?”) and fireworks at the stroke of midnight – I’m not joking, fireworks at Christmas. Every year, even Christmas competes with Christmas.
It’s not the spending I object to, not the parties, not the presents; I don’t say “Bah humbug” to the Gatsby glamour and spirit of it all, but I take umbridge at being told what to do by the black box in the corner: buy our stuff, consume, acquire our stuff or you won’t be happy. We love you, you love your family, we love your family. Show them how much. Buy. Spend. Acquire. Consume. Be satiated.
I won’t lie. I feel pressured to turn Eid into a “halal” Christmas: put up decorations, buy presents, make things magical. Why? Because I’m conscious of the Small Person looking up at me, looking at Islam, looking at Christmas and then looking at Eid. But what if Mr. Patel and his corner shop was where I stopped with Eid? Because let’s face it, we can’t compete with a multi-million pound global conglomerate. Mr. Patel is safe, him and his corner shop. You know what you’re getting with Mr. Patel don’t you? He always has milk and bread, the staples; he always gives you what you need and you leave with a smile don’t you? You’re not pressured into buying anything extra from Mr. Patel are you? He never slides a few extra items across the counter and tells you to get them if you love your family, does he? Sometimes he might have special offers on and you’re invited to take a look, but you never have to. You never leave empty-handed from Mr. Patel. Because he’s reliable and has everything you need. He might put up a few decorations and make things nice, but it’s never too much.
I’ll probably always have festival envy when it comes to the all-encompassing phenomenon that is Christmas – it’s far from just a religious holiday, everyone stopped pretending that a long time ago – but the thought of giving up on old Mr. Patel and his corner shop makes me feel a little guilty. What if we left him for the bright lights of the local mall, up-sized a little bit, all the while knowing we can’t compete with Christmas? But what if when we got there, the plastic, the lights, the cacophony of sound is all too much? What if it drowns out what we always did with Mr. Patel? What if we forget about Mr. Patel entirely? Would it really be Eid without Mr. Patel and our roots in his shop? I don’t think it would.
But I feel I should do something; I can’t keep looking to Christmas and wishing I was there, because the black box in the corner knows how to push my materialistic buttons. Don’t pretend, it pushes your buttons too; it knows what you want, it tells you how to get it and you want it allemagne viagra. You really want it. You know you do. There has to be something we can do. Maybe we can find a way to bypass all the materialism and make things magical, without money? Maybe we can side-step the lure of commercialism and create something of our own? Maybe we don’t need to compete with Christmas; maybe we just need to give Mr. Patel and his family a helping hand in their trusty little corner shop.