In most American households, one religion usually becomes the religion of the family. If your parents were Christian, then so were you. It’s like a tradition to pass your beliefs down to your children, indoctrinating them into the same world their parents pulled them in.
But my family was different. My father was a Muslim man, and my mother was raised in a Christian household. Yes, they are still married to this day.
This dynamic made for some very interesting and creative holidays and Christmas was usually our favorite. No, we didn’t put up trees or decorate the house, instead, we just poured love into one another as much as we could.
To make sure we assimilated properly with our young peers, my parents were very strategic in making us understand the dynamics of holidays that were important to the community we lived in. For instance, every Christmas Eve, Santa would ride around in his sleigh that was propped atop a fire truck parading around town throwing candy in the direction of little kids eager to wave at the man they believed was coming back the next night to deliver presents. But we knew this wasn’t real, just a man from the neighborhood dressed like Santa.
My mother pulled my twin and me aside at a very young age and explained to us that Santa did not exist, but warned us, if we went to school telling our friends, we’d be welcomed home with a spanking from the belt or a switch, she usually gave us the choice.
In elementary school, I remember kids telling stories about hearing Santa on the roof or showing pictures of the missing cookies they left out so Santa could treat himself to a late-night snack. But I knew none of those stories were true and I had to keep my 10-year-old mouth shut or else a serious whopping was coming my way.
Even though the minor threats were a tradition for us during the holidays, so were hoards of presents.
Our parents never called them Christmas gifts, but they made sure we had something to show off in school the next week. They never wanted us to feel left out so they showered us with gifts. Sometimes the Muslim holiday of Ramadan would end around the Christmas holiday and that meant double the gifts!
For my twin and me, the holidays didn’t have anything to do with religion. In fact, ‘family’ was our religion. Yes my dad was Muslim and prayed five times a day and sometimes I would join him, but not because I was following a religion, it was because I was following my father. Trying to be like him at every turn.
Religion was always explained to us through the lens of self. If a certain religion makes you want to become a better person, then that’s the religion we were encouraged to follow once became adults. But the holidays weren’t gonna be about Jesus, or Mohammed, instead, it would be about the Morris family and the love we poured into each other and that is a tradition I hope to continue when I have a family of my own.