Christmas Past & Present for a Pakistani-Canadian

A very Merry Christmas to all those celebrating the occasion! Today I am reflecting on Christmas in Pakistan from my past when I lived there and the one from my present now that we are in Canada. The spirit stays the same and so do my emotions as a Muslim of wishing health, happiness and joy to all those celebrating it. The only difference is that in Pakistan, those celebrating Christmas were in minority, whereas in Canada, the celebrations are everywhere.

Christmas in Pakistan

Christmas in Pakistan

Growing up I attended a Christian school in Pakistan, one of the many set up by missionaries during the British rule of the Indian subcontinent. The population of Pakistan is predominantly Muslim with a very small percentage of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis. Attending a Christian school in Pakistan gave me a unique opportunity to observe another religion closely and witness how comfortable co-existence can be. We sang Hymns at morning assembly praising the same God. Our school had breaks for Eid, Moharram, Easter and Christmas. During our Islamiyat (Islamic studies) class our Christian friends would head over to their Scripture one.

The highlights of the school calendar were the Christmas Play and the Eid Milad un Nabi event. There was enthusiastic and equal participation in both events by Muslim and Christian students. During December the school would buzz with excitement for the Christmas play. Before the annual Milad, the corridors would echo with the sounds of naat, as every class prepared to be the best. I was always touched with the way my christian friends respected the decorum of the Milad by covering their heads, participating in the naats and listening respectfully. This only increased our enthusiasm to make the Christmas play a success every year. The school environment was a perfect model to teach respect, tolerance and co-existence.

It’s been a joy this year to see the celebrations of Christmas in Pakistan to wish a Merry Christmas to our countrymen celebrating, through various different initiatives. I loved the onboard celebrations by the national carrier PIA.

Christmas in Pakistan

Christmas in Pakistan

And this parade in Karachi from last year was a joy to see.

Christmas in Canada

Now that I live in Canada, we love wishing our friends and neighbors a Merry Christmas just as much as we love hearing someone wish us Eid Mubarik! My children understand the concept of Eid and Christmas in age-appropriate ways. As a parent I have tried to teach the lesson that wishing our neighbors and friends on an occasion that is special to them, just increases joy and tolerance in the community. We have enjoyed preparing cards and gifts for the occasion and visiting our neighbors. As my children watched the Nativity scene set up by our next door neighbor, it reminded me of the curiosity I had as a child and I was happy for my children to have the exposure to diverse experiences.

So here’s wishing a very Merry Christmas to all our friends celebrating it this year! May the year be full of peace, joy and tolerance around the world, Amen.

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