Sunday, June 16, 2013

Christmas Cake

Photo Courtesy of
I've found myself caught in some rather awkward conversations regarding the Christmas holiday since I moved to India. It's happened on maybe 5-6 occasions and I never get fair warning before getting pulled into such discussions. These discussions don't occur at the end of December in all cases. I was just pulled into one last week.
One thing you should know: I'm a hijabi. That means a hijab wearing Muslim. I wear a headscarf when I step out of the house. Therefore, it's no secret when people meet me, or even before they meet me, what my religious affiliation is. In the states, wearing hijab leads people to ask you questions like "Where are you from?" and "How do you like being in the US?" In India, and in Hyderabad with an estimated 27% Muslim population, people look right past the hijab. Instead, they see my white skin and blue eyes and proceed to launch into some or the other Christmas story.
I've been invited to Christmas Mass, being told "I must miss going to mass (note: I've never been Catholic). I was also invited to a church dance. The first year I was here, my husband even asked me if I wanted a new dress for Christmas. The strangest to date, was last year. After we returned to the office after having a Christmas Day work holiday, one of my co-workers, who is engaged to a Muslim and had Iftar (the meal Muslims have at sundown after breaking fast) with me every single day last Ramadan, asked me if I went to church for Christmas. Ummmm, no? I played it cool and explained December 25th is my brother in laws birthday so I went out to lunch with him. I was totally confused. Someone who knew I was Muslim was asking if I had gone to church in honor of a holiday Muslims don't celebrate.
Last week, a Hindu cab mate, who sees me every day in hijab and who I had a full conversation with last week discussing the differences of fasting for Muslims and Hindus, found it appropriate to tell me about an office Christmas party complete with a small tree, Christmas cake (it's the same gag-gift fruit cake), and how she wished they could have had Christmas wine (whatever that is) but because it was an office party, it wasn't allowed. I was just sitting there, staring at her. It's the middle of June. No one mentioned anything about Christmas. Christmas isn't a Muslim holiday and she knows I'm a Muslim. Why was she telling me this?
Then I got to thinking. Do Indians think Christmas is a US holiday? I mean, less than 1% of the population here is Christian. The only real exposure to the holiday that people have, is the movies. Most Indians probably don't even know any Christians and the only exposure they have to the holiday is what they see on TV. Think about it. Who are the stars of Christmas movies? White Americans. Seems logical I guess.
Is there any other explanation?  I have to admit, I get a little miffed and am tempted to tell the next person that brings it up "I'm a Muslim. It's not my holiday." Is it my place to educate them? What's your advice? Post it in the comments below and Happy Holiday's Everyone!

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