What is Christmas?

As Christmas Eve approaches, hundreds of people around the world travel back home to spend the holidays with friends and family. Airports are often crowded, the streets filled with shopping bags and decorations hung in houses as well as in towns. However, what is Christmas? To its original roots, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the religious leader of the Christian faith, observed on the 25th of December.

In the West in the 1980’s and earlier, it was common to see representations of the Nativity of Jesus Christ’s birth, going to Midnight Mass and spending time with family. While those traditions live on, newer traditions have also been introduced. These include advent calendars, wreaths hung on doors, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, Christmas cards, mistletoe and the exchanging of gifts. The festivities have crept to many corners of the globe where its religious heritage has been transformed to a universal celebration of lights, merriment, tinsels and special food. While the occasion has spread joy across the world, it is interesting to note how other people of other faiths spend the time.

Christmas tree

How other faiths celebrate the season.


Mehreen, a Muslim from Pakistan, living in the U.S. said this, ‘we don’t celebrate Christmas at all in our home. We do love to enjoy the season and what it brings, we love to see the lights and sing along to Christmas music and wish others Merry Christmas. But we don’t have a tree, put stockings on the fireplace or have a Christmas Eve dinner’. While this is how Mehreen and her family spend their, she is quick to highlight that not all her Muslim friends do the same. ‘Some enjoy setting up the Christmas tree and the occasional Christmas Eve dinner’.  


Joreen loves Christmas. Based in Singapore, she explains saying ’it is so relaxing during this time of the year. The city is quieter and there isn’t the added stress of visiting all my many relatives. It’s probably one of my favourite times of the year’.


To Raviv, based in New York, Christmas is like every other day. “I appreciate the music, festivities, the sporadic eggnog and spending time with my family”. He continues on to say ‘we don’t have Christmas Eve dinner and often we end up going out for Chinese food! They are one of the few restaurants that are open’.


Natasha, living in Portugal, often takes the opportunity to escape the flurry that comes with the season, traveling and exploring new places. ‘I also don’t like the stress of trying to buy the perfect Christmas presents, knowing that they will most likely be returned. It doesn’t make sense’. Having said that, ‘I do love the atmosphere and the food and desserts this time of the year!’.


‘We don’t do anything for Christmas’ said Sangeeta, living in Bangalore. ‘It is spent like every other day of the year. It’s nice listening to the Christmas songs in the shopping malls though!’

Christmas decorations

In a world of many beliefs and family traditions, it is important to recognise and respect the many different faiths and customs around the world. With that in mind, this December we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas but also a very Happy Hanukkah, which this year, will start on the 22nd of December!

Author: Aparna Menon

Aparna is a SPEAK Buddy. She loves teaching, writing and meeting new people. She spends her free time watching movies, swimming and exploring new places.

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