An Acorn Tree

As a group of college students and young professionals and siblings, each desi (South Asian) young lady had an opinion about the subject of theology and how they integrated into their practical everyday lives. Sana was born in Pakistan but was taught at a young age to blend in. Even if not in her own home, she looked forward to Christmas celebrations every year with her school mates and friends.

It wasn’t too different from the other girls, except that Laila was a little more sheltered; she still went to holiday parties at school and enjoyed them, but wasn’t quite as involved her neighbor’s parties. Instead, her family just took a day off or attended their own community’s picnics.

They all wanted to adapt but at the same time held their burgeoning identities dear to their hearts. So far religious teachers had presented varying ideas about how much they could celebrate Christmas, or even different types of holidays for that matter. In analyzing it, they were in a way leaving behind days of intuition, simpler times of their younger years.

Their faith respected Jesus as their Prophet, calling him “Isa”, but they had different beliefs about his nature. They also didn’t celebrate the holidays of the chain of prophets they believed in, Adam, Isaac, Moses, etc. Even Prophet Muhammad’s birthday was significant but not celebrated as much. Christmas was the question because it was omnipresent in society.

Gradually, each had noticed that the community was self-identifying and growing more prominent. Yet at the same time, they were becoming acutely aware of being different. Asmara still missed the sense of commonality and acceptance that comes with a shared tradition.

“What is the big deal about a Christmas tree? I don’t see why we can’t have a wreath on our door, even on Eid.”

“I heard we aren’t supposed to celebrate other people’s holidays,” her younger brother Tariq said. “Nooooo,” his friend Samir chimed in matter-of-factly, “We can but its just that we our monotheists and we just generally don’t celebrate it as much.”

Sana thought aloud, “What if we make a Christmas tree at Sunday school?”

“Who do you think you are?” said Noreen. “The next female instigator at the mosque, the next Asra Nomani?”

But Sana persisted. Sunday school would be an interesting time to introduce the Christmas tree, because their teacher Mr. Akthar, was becoming boring.

Rebelliously, their mini tree not only included the little inexpensive stringed ornaments that they could afford, like beeds, acorns, and ornaments, but also a crafted star.

The tree was meant to instigate a debate but instead some members of the school started to question the motives and sense of identity on a personal level. Noreen, already being the reputed troublemaker, was the first to be challenged. She was naturally upset, starting to stammer. It was to her surprise that her Aunti Nida, who spent over 10 years in the South, saved her with grace. (Aunti and Uncle were terms of endearment for family friends.)

“The star has become a symbol. We don’t always even know what it signifies, however, while I was doing my dissertation, I also went through a phase of self-identification once again. I researched it and found that it represents the Star of Bethelehem, who led the wise men to the scene of nativity of Prophet Isa (Jesus).” She added according to tradition for the prophets, “Peace be Upon Him.”

Uncle was doubtful. “I heard it was a pagan tradition. Why is it for us? Why don’t we celebrate our own holidays with more?”

Aunti was tempted to interrupt because he was becoming a little emotional. She took a moment, but was a little perturbed.

“This tree was a pagan symbol of worship but it was later adopted for Christianity. It is like how the Kaaba was reclaimed by Prophet Muhammad’s community to Abrahamic traditions from polytheism and the societal problems that were accompanying jahaliyyah (darkness and oppression before the advent of Islam during the Prophet’s time.)

What you are referring to is an issue of pride, and that is distinct from this question.”

“I still don’t understand,” Tania said. “It is so iconic of the Christian holiday of Christmas but where is the Star of Bethelehem mentioned in Islam?”

That was a very good question. Uncle Akthar referred to the similar but different scene of Mary and the nativity of Jesus in Islam, but didn’t have an answer.

Sana was still questioning. “So we are allowed to have Christmas trees?” What else would that include now?

What exactly can we celebrate? She thought about it in detail, concluding quietly that partaking in the festivities was optional as long as it didn’t contradict Islam. Still, she wanted to understand more.

Several days later the questions that still hadn’t been resolved, just dissolved. They enjoyed a holiday dinner at a restaurant, taking in the beautiful scenergy. At least they felt more connected; their relationship with society and their role in it had expanded rather than contracted. For that, their sense of protection as cherished females, and their resources, they were grateful.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *