‘Tis that time of year
“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little…Prophet Jesus, lay down his sweet head!” I sang out on the last day before the Christmas holidays in 1998…This was at the annual Christmas mass our Catholic primary school had put on at our local church, as was tradition. I’d had practice with the ‘editing’ of the lyrics; having run through them quickly with my mother before the recital. My mother’s wise decision to edit out the lyrics tactfully rather than just pull me out of the choir was down to her own personal experience. She knew what this felt like; a Muslim amongst Christians on Christmas; she herself having been educated in a Catholic Convent school run by Irish nuns in the mountains of Baluchistan in the 70s. Both my mother and I benefited immensely from the discipline, good conduct and high standards of education set by our Christian neighbours; just like the first Muslim migrants benefited from the kindness of the Christians in Abyssinia. It would be odd to walk out on them after all that.
Even though Christmas is not a part of our own faith, what is a part of our faith is to be good to our neighbours. From a Muslim point of view, when it comes to encouraging good and forbidding evil, I plan on doing whatever good I can and encourage positive spirit, especially in cold dark winter months where depression is ripe from simple things just like the weather.
Coming from large, tight knit migrant families, it’s hard for a lot of Muslims to realise that something as simple as a drop in temperature renders a lot of people lonely this time of year, especially the elderly. This thought hadn’t hit me either until I attended a Christmas Eve mass at midnight at the local parish church where the priest said quite rightly that Christmas is the light in the darkness of winter. It gives people reason for happiness, joy and warmth- to cook, be with one another and summon up collective ‘festive’ spirit; a love for life in months that are, lets face it, dark and dismal. Even the colours put a smile on our faces; red, green and bright lights everywhere when all the leaves have dropped off all the trees and the meek sun sets on us by four in the afternoon.
Without the excuse of Christmas, even fewer visitors than usual would turn up at each other’s doorsteps just because the weather becomes an excuse to stay indoors and keep to ourselves. On the odd occasion I do go to read the mail out loud for my elderly neighbour, I thank God for Christmas and all the lovely cards he’s been getting since November amidst the drawl of the usual bills and junk mail. It’s such a good break from the mundane. This is why Christmas in Britain is a day, month, season- to look forward to. I certainly don’t want my neighbours buried under loneliness and depression.
On that note, I think Crisis at Christmas is something we can all join in with because we aren’t sitting down with our families opening presents on Christmas Eve. It’s an even better reason to look out for those that are on the streets no matter what time of year it is: http://www.crisis.org.uk/index.php. I’ve been tipped off by regulars from the local synagogue; who, being Jewish, also don’t celebrate Christmas but have come up with positive ways to be productive during the festivities. So, w-ho ho ho’s up for spreading Peace & Love?