Accessibility links


Some US Muslims Share in Christmas Traditions

In the United States, Christmas has become a holiday for people of all faiths, not only Christians. Some Muslim Americans also take part in Christmas festivities.

Outside the home of Saman Namazikhah and his wife Fatemeh, there sits a snowman adorned with lights and strings of lights wrapped around a tree. Inside, a Christmas tree sits beside a fireplace with Christmas stockings hung above a roaring fire. The Namazikhahs might have one of the most beautifully decorated homes on their street, but they are not Christians. They are Muslims, who came from Iran.

"We consider ourselves American as well as Iranians and Muslims, too. We don't differentiate it. As far as it goes so we enjoy it; we celebrate it. We decorate the house," said Fatemeh Mokhtari Namazikhah.

Saman Namazikhah says they combine an American tradition with Iranian traditions, especially during the meal for Christmas day.

"It wouldn't necessarily be a traditional Christmas feast. It could be a traditional Iranian feast," Saman Namazikhah explained.

As a board member of the Iran American Muslim Association of North America, Namazikhah says many of his friends at the culture center also take part Christmas traditions.

"A lot of them celebrate it. It's a part of their lives. They grew up here. A lot of them are people that have been here for a long time, so going through the school system, it's something that was pretty much embedded in their lives in their childhood," added Namazikhah.

Pakistani American Tehmina Khan started decorating her home for her children for Christmas 25 years ago.

"It's festive. We'd like to be a part of the American celebration. And its sharing and giving and just a joyous occasion, and we want to be a part of it," Khan explained.

Khan exchanges gifts and holds holiday parties, inviting many Muslim friends, such as Sara Khan and her family, who also decorate their homes for Christmas. But Khan says some of her other friends do not approve.

"They basically think that's nothing that Muslims do. It's not in our religion. They don't celebrate the birth of Christ. But we do believe in the Jesus, so there's nothing wrong with celebrating it," Sara Khan noted.

Usman Madha is the spokesman for the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. He says Muslims should not attach religious significance to their Christmas celebrations.

"They are on a very thin line there," Madha explained. "We also believe in Moses. When I say 'believe' in meaning that we believe them to be major prophets of Islam. How many Muslims go out and celebrate Pesach, Passover?"

Madha says it is important for Muslims to remember their faith.

"Participate, enjoy. Yet at the same time, the differences are there. It's just this is Christianity, this is Islam; we are Muslims, you are Christians," Madha added.

Just how many Muslims participate in Christmas traditions depends on demographics. From Madha's perspective this is a practice of "very, very few individuals." But the answer is very different for Pakistani American Vallikhan Khan, 22, who was born and raised in the United States.

"I think everyone that I know that's Muslim celebrates Christmas. Their faith is really strong, but they want to associate with the culture and be like everybody else," said Vallikhan Khan.

Many Muslim Americans who have Christmas trees say they do not see Christmas as a religious holiday. For them, it is simply a time of sharing and giving with family and friends of all faiths.