This time each year, I can expect to hear some of my friends fretting about their children’s non-stop questioning: “Why can’t we celebrate Christmas and get gifts? Even some of our Muslim friends get gifts on Christmas day!”
Exasperated, these mums have ticked all the boxes:
(1) Muslims are different from non-Muslims; (2) none of the prophets celebrated their birthdays; (3) we don’t even celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday; (4) we celebrate Eid twice a year, but still the interrogations continue.
So what’s the problem? Celebrating the birthday of ‘Isa (AS), decorating a tree, exchanging presents, a cuddly old man laughing Ho! Ho! Ho! – sounds harmless… but is it? I decided my friends needed knowledge that would appeal to their children’s reasoning, rather than to a faith which is still fragile, in its infancy in their hearts.
Ask any child to explain Christmas and he will answer that 25th December is Jesus’ birthday.
Um… no it isn’t.
No one knows when Jesus (AS) was born, but even a brief study of the Bible shows that it was most likely late summer or early autumn, not December.
Early Christians didn’t celebrate his birthday for at least 300 years after the death of Christ. In the Catholic Encyclopedia (published by the Roman Catholic Church), we find “in the Scripture, sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday.”
500 years after Isa’s death, the Roman Catholic Church ordered his birthday to be celebrated each year on this day, 25th December.
Huh? Did I miss something?
Ok, let’s rewind. In the early years after Jesus’ death, the Roman world was pagan. They worshipped the sun (where we get Sunday from) and believed the SUN GOD’S birthday to be on 25th December. When Constantine, a Christian, came to power, the pagans began to convert to Christianity, but they did not wish to abandon their idolatrous festival with all its merrymaking, so they turned the birthday of the SUN GOD to the birthday of the SON of God!
So Christmas, or Christ-mass, is a pagan festival. There is no mention of it in the New Testament. It is a festival of shirk, a major sin.
The Christmas tree
If we go further back in time, we find the true origins of Christmas going all the way back to Nimrod, a descendant of Noah (AS).
Nimrod was a corrupt and despotic ruler – many Muslim historians believe him to be the tyrant king who argued with Prophet Ibrahim (AS), even throwing him in the furnace. One version of his story goes like this: when Nimrod died, his mother said that a fully grown tree had sprung up in place of a dead stump on his birthday – 25th December! She claimed it was his spirit in that tree and that each year on his birthday he would leave gifts under that tree.*
What does the Bible say of this? “…Learn not the way of the heathen… For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jeremiah 10:2-5).
Surely not sweet ol’ Santa too? Oh yes! Nothing Christian about him either! Santa Claus is a corruption of the name St. Nicholas, while Old Nick is one of Satan’s nicknames. And what is his chief quality? To deceive. Parents teach their kids not to lie, only to turn around and deceive them about some man who leaves presents for them under a tree. Every lie leads to disillusion and a sense of betrayal. Once the lie of Santa is discovered, it could be the natural next step to assume that Jesus is also a lie. That God is also a lie. Lies, Shaytan and shirk – how could we want our children to be involved in this?
What could possibly be wrong with exchanging gifts? Even Jesus (AS) got the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, didn’t he?
Did he get them on his birthday? No, the wise old men visited him days or weeks after his birth. Why did they bring gifts? Because they believed him to be the king of the Jews. And it was a long-standing tradition to give gifts to men of importance. You don’t visit a king empty handed, that’s for sure.
Secondly, on Christmas day, people don’t give gifts to Jesus (AS); they give gifts to each other. Now how would you like it if it were your birthday and you invited your friends over, only to find out that they had brought gifts for everyone but you? The wise old men didn’t give gifts to each other did they? If Christians are celebrating Jesus’ birthday, why aren’t they contributing to his cause? Wasn’t he all about charity? Shouldn’t they be giving gifts to the poor and downtrodden, instead of to each other?
Take a look around you when the build up to Christmas begins – commercialism at its most diseased. BILLIONS of dollars are spent each year on advertising, decorations, lighting, electricity and all for what? To sell merchandise! To lure people into spending their hard earned money on things they don’t need, often buying on credit and getting further and further into debt. Not only do they waste an obscene amount of money, but also time. When you see people running around several weekends in a row trying to find the perfect gift, you have to wonder – how much good could those same people do if they spent that time volunteering at their local soup kitchen instead?
While there are some practising Christians out there who sincerely take Christmas to be a way of expressing their love for Jesus (AS), by and large there is nothing charitable about Christmas and it has no connection with ‘Isa (AS).
Alhamdulillah I have never lied to my children, nor have I ever allowed anyone to lie to them – not with stories of the tooth fairy or any other tall tales. I firmly believe an uncomfortable truth is infinitely preferable to a cosy lie. Christian parents – and many Muslims too – need to take a good look at what message is being sold here. If our children understand the truth about Christmas, insha Allah they will lose all desire to be part of this glittering deception.
Based in Berkshire, Safia A. is a mother of two with a background in graphic design, interior design, fine art and creative textiles. She loves painting, writing, reading, cooking and baking. Her work has been published in various Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers.