Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The meaning of Christmas in different cultures

Whilst the winter holidays, for many, are dominated by the celebration of Christmas, there are many students at Warwick who do not actually celebrate the holiday in the traditional sense. As such, two students describe their personal connections to Christmas, despite not traditionally celebrating the holiday.

 

Mariam Amini

When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind? Is it finding the perfect tree, getting all your gift shopping done in time and attempting to outdo last year’s Christmas dinner? Or perhaps you specifically look forward to seeing your loved ones again, as you attempt to organise another massive family reunion. For me, the actual significance of Christmas as an event has changed over the years, mainly because it is not typically celebrated in my culture.

In actuality, Jesus is an incredibly significant figure in Islam, recognised as the penultimate Prophet of God. However, unlike both traditional Christian custom and contemporary Western practice, his birthday is not marked as a holiday in the religion. Growing up, it therefore took a while to properly comprehend what this permitted. I would partake in Secret Santa with classmates, yet look forward to the two-week break from school rather than counting down the days till Christmas itself.

However, hearing about how special the day seemed to be for friends, I tried to join in on the hype halfway through secondary. Telling our respective parents we were going to buy groceries for the others’ family, my cousin and I secretly went Christmas shopping for the first time. It turned out to be a fun, yet overwhelming process, and the hardest part was trying to figure out what to get my dad.

We later begged our family to get a Christmas tree, and though the others didn’t match our childlike eagerness, they were happy to go along with it for our enjoyment. The entire plan had formed very last minute, so the hunt for a real tree proved difficult. Nevertheless, once my mum showed up with her authentic, perfectly sized find, all the cousins gathered to start decorating together. We then ended up having our South African neighbours over on the day too.

This somewhat continued for the next year or so, however it didn’t take long to realise that the tree or presents weren’t the best bit. That’s not to say that these aspects aren’t important, and for many it remains a big part of the Christmas experience. However, now the day is used more as an opportunity for my family to get together, with relatives from abroad often joining us for the holiday period. Therefore providing a nice excuse to spend time with loved ones, I can’t say that my plain, unconventional experience of Christmas hasn’t felt special.

 

Aamena Patel

As soon as the leaves start falling from the trees, you can spot the signs of Christmas creeping in. Whether it’s hearing a bit of Michael Bublé as you’re browsing in a shop or putting your name in for the Secret Santa draw in your flat, being able to avoid the festive spirit would be a minor miracle in itself. I wouldn’t say that I have ever celebrated Christmas, but growing up I’ve noticed that I still experience some of the main things that make Christmas what it is.

Most of my family tend to have time off work for the holiday period making it the perfect time of year to gather everyone together for a roast dinner. Although we don’t exchange gifts or put up a Christmas tree, we might invest in crackers for a bit of fun and we’ll happily laze around enjoying the Christmas films on TV.

This Christmas will be a little different for me, as for the first time my university house will actually have a proper Christmas tree, courtesy of my housemate. The house is already covered in tinsel and handmade paper snowflakes following a Sunday of Christmas excitement.

Growing up in Birmingham has also meant that I’ve had ample opportunity to appreciate the German Christmas market that comes around every November. Over the years I’ve been with different groups of friends but I’ve always found the festive atmosphere the markets bring to the city centre to be pretty hard to resist. I wouldn’t say that Christmas is necessarily about what I believe or what I celebrate. It’s a time to get together with friends and family and, for me, it can be an opportunity to share new experiences.

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