This article originally appeared on VICE UK. Ah, Christmas—a time of merriment, joy, and festive cheer. But also, it's very much a time of being obliged to bankrupt yourself on a Secret Santa gift the colleague you've been randomly assigned will actively hate. So, yes, it's lovely—but it's also challenging.
For Muslims, there are extra challenges associated with Christmas. Not necessarily because we don’t celebrate it, or don’t appreciate the day off, but leading up to the holiday, we might have been accused of waging a war on Jesus's birthday, or of trying to rebrand Christmas as "Eid al ISIS," or of "invading" that most sacrosanct Christmas tradition, the annual Tesco ad.
Mind you, the shit you’ll have to deal with every Christmas as a Muslim isn’t strictly limited to bored Daily Mail reporters trying to find something to write about. From handling your uncle's annual anti-Semitic rants to putting on a smile while standing around awkwardly as the only sober person at the office party, here’s all the shit you have to deal with as a Muslim during Christmas.
The Terrible Office Christmas Party Is Worse When You're Sober
Heads up: As a Muslim, you're not supposed to drink alcohol. You might already be aware of that —it's one of the better-known things about the Muslim faith, along with the fact that we pray five times a day and generally don't have the best time at airports.
Considering that to be British at Christmas is to spend exactly six hours huddled into an overcrowded, asbestos-filled pub, wearing an itchy novelty sweater, trying desperately to make conversation with someone from work about anything other than work, it helps to be able to drink. This is difficult when you’re religiously prohibited from getting hammered.
So, instead, you'll likely stand around awkwardly with a comically tiny bottle of diet Coke, trying to feign interest in Ruby from marketing's Game of Thrones theories (she's on season two, and wrong about everything). Or you'll nod and grin while Mike from accounts lists each and every time he's been "fucked up" in the past year, before trying to convince you to blow off the pub and join him at a strip club.
No, Mike: I do not want to drink a soda while watching you shout at semi-naked women about your $300 Christmas bonus.
Trying to Avoid Britain First While Buying a Turkey
Trying to find halal turkey has always been difficult, but it's even harder now that you have to worry about untrustworthy butchers and red-faced guys in flat caps and branded polo shirts waging a holy crusade against your card transaction.
Thanks to groups like Britain First for accusing butchers and local grocery stores of being covert al-Qaeda operatives for selling halal meat, stores offering halal Christmas foods are fairly tricky to come by.
Not a biggie, obviously, but hey, we wouldn't mind getting in on the turkey action, too.
'You Don't Do Christmas, Do You?'
Not really, no, but we are still alive during the month of December, and prefer to not be completely excluded from everything going on around us.
Let's take Secret Santa—a ritual gift-giving exercise that has much more to do with consumerism than religion. Let's think of when Linda sends that list of names around and yours is conspicuously missing. Or, if your name is included—and because nobody really knows anything about you other than the fact that you're brown—you once again have to reluctantly thank Damien for that $3 multi-pack of socks, as he gives you the same excuse you hear every year for every shitty gift: "Sorry, I know it's a bit boring—but you don't really celebrate Christmas, do you?"
The Annual 'Is Christmas Haram?' Debate
Pardon the generalization, but, having been a Muslim all my life, I’m pretty sure that for the most part, "Muslim Christmas" is like most people's Christmas. It largely consisting of assorted seasonal snack foods, crap TV, and desperately trying to stop your uncle from going on a racist rant.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped the exact same debate from happening every single year. This debate is usually instigated by your cousin Abdul (the one who calls your mom whenever he sees you speaking to a woman) in the form of daily WhatsApp messages running up to the 25—an "Islamic advent calendar," if you will—describing Christmas as the "devil’s holiday," or pointing out that its recognition is, yet again, a sign of imminent end times. Cousin Abdul may disapprove of your now shrunken Christmas sweater on the grounds that flying reindeer are a sign of the apocalypse, but this won't stop him from eating all your Christmas cookies.
Speaking of Which, You Still Have to Stop Your Uncle from Being Racist
You may be a minority but that won't necessarily stop one of your family members from deciding that a Christmas-themed dinner is the best venue to air their terrible opinions about the supposed Jewish takeover of Britain. This is something they discovered after watching a video on this famous news website. "You might have heard it, actually, nephew—Infowars?"
"Who are all the bankers?" your uncle will shout, mouth full of Christmas samosa. "The Jews! And have you read David Irving? Just something to think about, is all I'm saying."
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