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"How do I raise my son to understand Christmas, if he is Muslim?"

Stacey’s father spending time with his grandson on Eid

I am not a rigid person who is closed off to others. I am open minded and tolerant which is surprising to some who presume as a Muslim I am against many things.

I probably wouldn’t be Muslim if it wasn’t for my ability to open my mind to other things. My openness to others is necessary as my family are not Muslim. They are what I would call cultural Christian. Some use the term, Births Deaths and Marriages Christian others say Christmas and Easter Christian. Whatever the term, they refer to themselves as Christian and I consider myself a practicing Muslim.

So you can imagine now as a fairly non-practicing Christian family they wouldn’t have many differences with me. Yes it is true we get along. There are however some practices that we do not share. Besides not eating pork, we also don’t celebrate Easter and Christmas. This was easy at first because it was just my husband and I. But now there is a third. The first grandchild and he does not celebrate Christmas.

In 2011 I had my first child, my Sulayman (a version of Solomon). And yes, that means I will be raising a Muslim. His grandparents are Christian (which one day I will explain to him) and I remember the disappointment they felt when they realised they would not get to spoil their grandson on Christmas Day. I also feel a similar sadness during Eid where many spend time with there families in a style very similar to Christmas. I have had my parents celebrate with us for the sake of their grandson however there is a sense of awkwardness as certain things seem so alien to them.

Stacey Mohammed

So how do I raise my son to understand Christmas? I intend to raise him with tolerance and acceptance. To understand that there are others who live and believe differently to him.

This philosophical talk may have to wait until he has a concept of things but for the time being I show him the “pretty lights” and let him admire the Christmas decorations. My realisation however of how soon I may have a conversation about Christmas came today when he ran over to a Santa in the local supermarket. He wanted a closer look of the man with the white beard. I can’t blame him as you don’t see men like Santa everyday. Sulayman smiled at the man and gave him a high five. All I could do was laugh. I made a conscious note to not give Santa a name and told my son to say goodbye to the nice man.

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You may wonder why I didn’t tell my son about Santa but I realised how confusing it is for a two year old to understand about religion and within our belief he does not have to understand many things until he is older. Instead I focused on my son being polite and saying goodbye. A lesson every child should be learning at the age of two. Not about comparative religion.

I am not alone in having to raise children in a society with such a strong love for Christmas. Over 22 percent of Australians have no religion and 7.2 percent of Australians have a belief other than Christianity.

Just to give us an idea in terms of numbers, there are over 1.5 million people in Australia with an alternative religion to christianity. That means Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Jewish people, have deal with introducing other religions to their children at a very young age. I know many would have different ideas on how to do this. They vary from a fearful approach to an almost adopting approach (imagine my shock when being wished a Merry Christmas by our Hindu friends). It is completely up to the parent on how they do this.

I find India as an example of the need for tolerance. A country where all major religions exist. Where billboards wishing Ramadan Mubarak make way for Happy Diwali. I don’t want to go about raising a Muslim son shielded from the knowledge of other religions. Instead, I want him to understand the differences and to be proud of his religion. That, I hope, will allow him to grow into someone strong and proud of his faith, Inshallah (God Willing).

Stacey is a country girl who moved to the big city, changed her religion, met a boy, married, and is now a mummy of one little boisterous boy. When not chasing him around she spends her time reading or planning her next overseas adventure. Find her blog here.

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