Kinzey Posen & Nadia Kidwai (CBC)
"I was the best damn wise man out of the 'Three Wise Men' in my school nativity play. I had on the authentic Arab robes and everything!"
—Nadia Kidwai. Muslim
Kinzey Posen on growing up Jewish:
There's a picture somewhere in my basement taken in the 1950's from Winnipeg's old Eatons store. There I am, a nice Jewish boy perhaps four years old sitting on Santa Claus's lap. I don't remember that particular day, but I do vividly recall going to Eatons and the Bay to see their Christmas toy displays and being in toy heaven.
As a Jewish kid, did I want to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the seasonal perks such as bright coloured trees and toys? Well, actually no, not at all. I grew up in a family that celebrated all the traditional Jewish holidays and I attended a parochial school from kindergarten to grade seven. With that kind of a background, I guess I felt quite content to watch all the seasonal craziness from a distance.
Part of that came from the fact that Jews always celebrate Chanukah around this time of year. Our holidays go according to the lunar calendar so they move around a bit timewise. It celebrates the miracle of a lamp being able to burn not for one day, but eight in our ancient temple in Jerusalem.
Traditionally we eat foods made with olive oil such as latkes. We spin the dreidel and light the candles every night. Even though Adam Sandler's tune The Chanukah Song says we get gifts for eight days, it's not really true. That's a tradition that grew out of some North American parents caving in to the pressure of Christmas. As kids, my brother and I received a silver dollar from our grandparents every Chanukah and that was it. I still have some of them.
The classic cliche for Jews on Christmas Eve is to go to a Chinese restaurant and see a movie. We certainly did go to movies. In fact,my dad remembers going to the old Lyceum Theatre on Christmas Eve with my mum in the 50's and being the only two people in the place.
When I was younger, you'd hear rumours of some Jewish family putting up a Chanukah bush, but I never personally saw one. These days, with more intermarriage, I'm sure there are a few such trees. There is one house in my neighbourhood that sports Christmas lights and a giant illuminated star of David on the lawn.
I have to say that I love this time of the season. Everyone seems so happy and friendly. I enjoy the traditional songs, some of which were composed by Jews and I enjoy the underlying spirit of peace and goodwill to all which seems to come through despite the commercialism. People of all faiths slow down, spend more time with their families and take stock of what really matters. What could be better than that?
Happy holidays or as we say in Hebrew, Chanukah Sameach!
Nadia Kidwai: Confessions of a Muslim who loves Christmas.
My love affair with Christmas began when I was just a young whipper-snapper growing up in the UK. Back in the 80's, we still referred to Christmas concerts (and not 'Winter' or 'Holiday' concerts as is so often used by our politically correct schools). I gave out Christmas cards (admittedly from our equivalent of the dollar store), I knew all the old-school Christmas carols, exchanged Christmas presents with school friends and some years my family even put up a cheap 3-foot tacky Christmas tree (again, from the aforementioned dollar store). And I'll have you know, I was the best damn wise man out of the 'Three Wise Men' in my school nativity play. I had on the authentic Arab robes and everything!
Christmas to me then, as it is now, is basically a warm and fuzzy feeling that I get; brought about through cheesy Christmas songs, pretty Christmas lights and watching hours of feel-good Christmas movies on the days we get off from work and school.
The Christmas-lite version of this religious holiday makes it both easier and more difficult for me as a Muslim mother raising my own two young boys here in Canada. On one hand, the fact that words like 'Jesus', 'Manger' and 'Bethlehem' are no longer mentioned all that often, means that I do not have to provide a long theological or religious explanation to my 3 and 5 year old about the concept of the Trinity. Whilst in Islam, the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) is deeply loved and respected as a messenger of God, Muslims do not believe that he was the son of God. On the other hand, try telling two kids that Santa's not bringing them any gifts this year BECAUSE MUSLIMS DON'T BELIEVE IN SANTA! Ahem.
So what will my family be doing this Christmas? Thank GOD, someone in our community has organized a children's fair all weekend long at our local mosque- which is sure to rival the allures of Santa coming down our non-existent chimney. We will no doubt be spending Christmas at our place of worship with our family and friends, eating lots of good food and making merry.
How's that for irony?