Why Many South Asian Muslims Celebrate Christmas

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

mr khan bbc muslims christmas
Adil Ray as Mr. Khan in 'Citizen Khan' (BBC)

Sadaf Ahsan

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December 22, 2022

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.

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