How do my fellow citizens of other cultures and religions perceive German and Christian traditions during the Christmas season? I went and asked a Muslim friend who is originally from Afghanistan and she wrote me these lovely lines:
“When we bumped into each other in town the other day, you asked me to describe Christmas from my perspective. I have been living in Germany for 25 years now and have noticed that Christmas plays a very important role in Germany.
I have to say that this festival does not exist in our country. That’s why we don’t celebrate it directly, but of course you catch onto some things. For example, we don’t have a tree in our living room, but instead we have other beautiful flowers all year round, which fortunately don’t needle. But of course we are happy about the Christmas vacations, bake cookies and give presents to our friends. That simply goes with it. Also my children enjoy the nice atmosphere at school and the lights that are hung up everywhere at Christmas. So of course we experience a lot of Christmas spirit without actively celebrating it.
What counts most for me is the meaning of Christmas. Because Jesus is an important prophet for us Muslims, too. And so it is also a beautiful day for us, but we do not celebrate it traditionally and typically German. We do not celebrate it any more than we celebrate the birth of other prophets, but nevertheless we always remember the events of that day. In this respect one can say: For all of us, no matter what culture or religion, the prophets and therefore also Jesus are very important. Each country or culture just deals with it differently or celebrates it differently.“
I definitely need to do this more often! When I’m too immersed in my work with expats and colleagues from all over the world, I forget to engage with the diversity that is right here in my town.
Just to be clear, this is my friend’s story and I’m sure there are many different ways how other Muslims view Christmas. But what matters is that we had the trust to have this conversation. And we should all have many more of these!