People of Other Faiths Navigate the Holiday Hoopla

December 10, 2006

Author: Deepti Hajela

Source: The Shreveport Times

Wire Service: AP

NEW YORK -- Christmas morning is a bonanza for my nephews and nieces, box after box from loving aunts, uncles and grandfolk. I love watching them open all the gifts, but I have to admit to a twinge of envy, even now in my 30s "" Christmas didn't look anything like this when I was their age.

Christmas actually didn't look like anything for much of my childhood, we didn't celebrate it. My parents, immigrants from India, wanted to make sure that my brother and I knew we were Hindu and understood what that meant. They figured celebrating a Christian holiday would confuse things.

Little by little, as time passed, the rules relaxed and Christmas came to represent just good cheer and the end of the year. The tree came first, when I was 13 or so. Gift-exchanging in my little nuclear family came a couple of years later. Some years after that, the extended family joined in and, finally, we had the whole holiday meal. (The final line to be crossed is stockings by the fireplace, but so far, my mom is holding firm.)

Figuring out what to do about the holiday hoopla that is Christmas can be a tricky issue for those who don't have a religious reason to observe it. Many Jews celebrate Chanukah instead, which falls at around the same time. But if you're Hindu or Muslim and celebrate your big holidays at other times of the year, what do you do?

Chandrani Ghosh managed to sidestep this question for a couple of years after her daughter Malaika was born "" they would go to visit family in India every December and not worry about Christmas at all. But now that the 5-year-old is in school, and has been joined by 1-year-old Milind, jaunting off halfway around the world in December doesn't work as well.