In the building with the blue windows and the diamond shaped roof tops, children dressed in red and green with rosy cheeks, were gaily singing: “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to ride in a one more hoppin’ slay! Hey! … Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! ” In the building across the street, with the pink windows and the mosque behind it, families were visiting each other in their newly bought clothes and shining shoes, wishing each other: Eid Mubarak, Dear Brother, Dear Sister May Allah’s blessings be bestowed upon you and your family! ” The year 2008 is host to Christmas and Eid al Adha during the same month, only a few days apart. One would notice that decorations and celebrations favour one of the Religious Holidays over the other. Why have we chosen to commercialise Christmas and not the Islamic event of Eid? How is it that worldwide Christmas is rejoiced at an extreme point of merriment, whereas Eid al Adha is commemorated only within its Islamic communities?
The historical references of the birth of Christ (As) and the sacrifice of Ibrahim(As) and his son are known within both religions and are testimonies of social gatherings. Actually, in our Islamic religion we learn that Ibrahim (As) would sacrifice his son Ismael (As) in Makah, while among the Christians, they believe that Ibrahim (As) would sacrifice his son Isaac (As), not Ismael (As), in Palestine. Artists painted the scenes, poets rhymed the stories, authors researched the history, all in tribute to the religious aspect of the culture of their upbringings.
So, why is Christmas the prize of the globalization of the market, and not Eid al Adha? Why is Christmas more widely accepted as a commercial Holiday and not Eid? Throughout history, religion has been a battleground for the survival of cultures and traditions. Territory was fought for based on religion, international communications broke down because of different convictions. Yet, the holidays seem to unite even people who are the farthest apart. Thanksgiving, Easter, Ramadan, Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha and Christmas are celebrations that should be known worldwide; and for the most part they are.
In the United States and Canada they honour Thanksgiving, also most westren countries have Easter and Christmas holidays; the Orient celebrate with some of these holidays. However, come Ramadan or Eid, and only the immediate Islamic based countries, like the Middle East and the South-Asian countries, know the details of the holiday. Abu Dhabi is an example of a multi-tradition and multi-cultural city. Every year, Ramadan is noticed and felt all over the city, even its peripheries. Usually, both Eids are just as important as Ramadan is.
Nonetheless, this year, because Christmas and Eid al Adha are so close to each other, the shopping malls, hotels and other retail outlets are decorated with the spirit of Christmas and not the joy of Eid al Adha. The controversy is that this is an Islamic country, yet the atmosphere feels very occidental. There are Islamic countries that allow a one-day or two-day holiday scheme for Christmas, whereas Western countries don’t instigate the notion of respecting the religion of others in their society.
This demonstrates the respect Islamic based governments have towards their inhabitants, what does it say about the Occident? The Islamic goverments does no justice to the foundation of its roots. It is quite disappointing when the nation’s leaders are not intervening and stating that Eid is as important as Christmas; maybe even more so! This is a country whose laws and government regulations are born from the Quran itself. True, Jesus’ (As) birth is a belief amongst Muslims, but so is the sacrificial symbol of the Adha a belief amongst the Christians and other religions in the world.
Why can’t all cultures adopt the Islamic tradition of gifting children with new clothes and taking them out to restaurants and amusement parks? The government does not encourage Eid as much as it allows public places to be enveloped in Christmas decorations. In France, the Arab communities hold visitations and share in Islamic customs within their brotherhood, whilst around them Christmas carols are sung and the city is embellished in tinsel and goblins, awaiting the arrival of “Santa Claus”, or in their terms “Pere Noel. In Dubai, much like Abu Dhabi, hotels and restaurants have special Christmas luncheons. Shops and Malls give away special offers during the ‘Festive Season’. There is yet to be established an Eid theme blanketing the cities where Islam is the religion of base, like that of Christmas. What is even more upsetting is that Christmas is in itself less religious and more commercial than it was 500 years ago. Christmas has a face, a figure one can imagine when thinking of the Holiday: a jolly man, with a red suit and a white beard.
He did not always look like this. “Santa Claus” acquired his red suit and the big belly through a Coca Cola advertisement in 1931. His image changed, distorted almost, into what we know now as “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! ” by many cartoonists. “Through the centuries, Santa Claus has been depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to an elf. He has worn a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin. The modern-day Santa Claus is a combination of a number of the stories from a variety of countries”*. (Coca-cola. om) Children stop believing in him at a very early age, whereas before, they would reach the age of maturity and only then learn that “Santa Claus” is a spirit of St. Nicholas. Eid al Adha, was, is and always will be the same. The story never changes. The facts are facts, not subject to individual interpretation. Families pass on the same heritage that remains untouched, untainted, unpenetrated by social reform. In conclusion, I strongly believe that the injustice the Islamic governors does, the discrimination between religions should be educated to a halt. Eid al Adha is my upbringing.
Within my family, an uncle has a Christian wife, their house is always decorated with Christmas twinkles during the season; this year, they waited with the decorations until after Eid al Adha. As a Muslim in an Islamic society, I have been brought up to respect all religions and beliefs by our Islamic governments; so why now can’t the Islamic governments respect their religion that they take oath to respect, protect, and maintain it?