Why Many South Asian Muslims Celebrate Christmas

What some call “haram” is a way for others to incorporate traditions that center family and giving.

Sadaf Ahsan

December 22, 2022

Why Many South Asian Muslims Celebrate Christmas
Adil Ray as Mr. Khan in 'Citizen Khan' (BBC)

For as far back as she can remember, Maryam Jivanji, a U.K.-based yoga teacher, has been celebrating Christmas — despite being Muslim. 

“I put up a tree, with some traditional decorations and the random Christmas crafts my kids come home with,” she shared. “We go to see Santa, either in person or in a parade, and on Christmas day, we open gifts first thing in the morning.” For Jivanji’s family, Christmas night brings a feast that can include the traditional turkey, chicken, or biryani

Jivanji is not alone. Many Muslims and other non-Christians celebrate Christmas. A 2019 Gallup poll found that about 80% of non-Christians in the U.S. said they celebrate Christmas, while 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas, of which only about a third described their celebrations as religious. But while there might be a slew of personal essays about why Hindus and Sikhs, for example, enjoy participating in the holiday, you’ll find only a handful about Muslims doing the same. 

For many Muslims, championing another prophet is tantamount to adopting another belief and is, therefore, a “haram” activity, akin to calling your spouse by your ex’s name. But, for others, it’s about having an opportunity to gather with loved ones, and build a joyful, inclusive space.