Five years ago on Christmas, I was at a bowling alley in Karachi and saw a boy dressed like Santa Clause walking around, which I thought was weird. Then my friend turned to me, "Merry Christmas! It must be party time in the States, huh?"“Umm…” I had to think for a second. Coming from the U.S., I was an automatic expert on American culture, but I had never actually celebrated Christmas in the States. No Muslim-American I knew celebrated Christmas—the ultimate Christian holiday. “It’s actually more of a family holiday,” I informed him.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Well, turns out Pakistanis don’t really care for the truth about Christmas because, in this Taliban-plagued, 95% Muslim country, Christmas is party time. I was surprised enough when I saw Santa at the mall last week, thronged with Pakistani children. Then my Pashtun driver had the radio on "Jingle Bells." I looked outside and a street vendor was selling Santa caps.
My cousin commented that his Facebook feed was full of "Merry Christmas!" statuses-- more than any other holiday including Eid and Diwali-- and most of his friends have never been to the States.
Then I heard about Christmas parties. Of course, I had to go. The first place we went could have been on TV, which is actually my best evidence of what Christmas looks like—a huge, long table full of classic Christmas dishes, dimly lit, carols on CD, a tree full of ornaments, and Secret Santa. Then we went to a Christmas house party, where all the girls were dressed in red and wearing Santa caps.
So after years of, like many Muslim-Americans, secretly loving Christmas but always feeling a little left out, I finally celebrated it—in Pakistan. But the Christmas spirit here is about more than Santa and ornaments, it’s also the perfect reminder of Pakistan's progressive spirit.