The 5 Stages of Grief Experienced By Someone Who Doesn't Celebrate Christmas
It's finally Christmas Eve and, though I love my Muslim culture and heritage, the one significant setback of Islam is that my family doesn't celebrate Christmas. Sure, a lot of non-Christian or non-religious people celebrate non-secular Christmas, and a lot of Jewish people in the United States will have both a tree and a menorah if their family is of mixed faith, but the act of associating with Christmas in any way is generally frowned upon for Muslim families. This year, not only do I have to watch the Christmas hoopla without joining in, there's also no Muslim holiday that falls around the same time. Since Muslim holidays are contingent upon the cycles of the moon, their timing changes every year. It will be a holiday-free start to the winter for me and Muslim people everywhere.
Even though I'm not a Christian (or particularly religious), growing up in the United States has made me totally and completely enamored by the post-Thanksgiving holiday cheer that takes over this country every year. Everyone looks so damn happy, I love getting people presents, and it's an excuse to drink all sorts of holiday-themed drinks that won't be sold for the rest of the year. Unable to participate, my emotions during Christmas and the surrounding weeks pretty much mirror the five stages of grief. It goes a little something like this.
Stage 1: Denial
The denial stage can most accurately be elaborated as "my denial that my family doesn't celebrate Christmas and I'm going to be home for the holidays and therefore can't throw my own Christmas party in my apartment." This stage sets in right after Thanksgiving when people start posting aggressively filtered photos of their Christmas trees, or monogrammed stockings and candy canes start magically appearing in every aisle of the grocery store. During this stage, I like to go Christmas shopping for my roommates, friends, and secret santas, and pretend that the smell of Christmas cookies will be waiting for me when I get home.
Stage 2: Anger
WHY DO ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE LOOK SO HAPPY? WHY CAN'T MY FAMILY JUST SUCK IT UP AND GET A TREE? WHY WON'T ANYONE KISS ME UNDERNEATH THE MISTLETOE? WHY DO PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THIS STUPID HOLIDAY ANYWAY? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO LOVELY AND SPARKLY? WHY ISN'T THE TAYLOR SWIFT VERSION OF THIS CHRISTMAS SONG PLAYING RIGHT NOW?
Stage 3: Bargaining
After my internal fit of rage has passed, I'll always make some sort of attempt to get my family in the holiday mood. Common phrases I use during this stage include:
- What if we just got a tree. We don't even have to celebrate the holiday, let's just get a tree. Plants in homes are a good thing, right?
- How about everyone just gets everyone else ONE present. Just a little thing, to show one another we care! I know you want a Magic Bullet, mom. I can make that happen for you.
- Lets just make a special dinner on the night of the 24th or 25th! Not because of Christmas or Christmas Eve, but just because we're family and we love each other and good food is a lot of fun! Right? Right, guys? Anyone? Bueller?
Stage 4: Mourning
When the bargaining inevitably fails each and every time, I slip into a hopeless, dark, painfully sad state where I actually won't leave the house for a few days so I don't have to confront Christmas lights or red snowflake Starbucks cups in everyone's hands. This happens right around the time when, for example, even significant others need to stop texting you to be with family, so there is no one to commiserate. It feels like the 48 hours of Christmas and Christmas Eve will never end.
Stage 5: Acceptance
It's hard to stay too depressed during the holidays, so as that fades out I usually begin to accept my reality, and the reality is, I get to participate in Christmas cheer with friends and their families and will usually be invited to a Christmas Eve dinner somewhere that can feel like an extension of home for the night. Besides, maybe next year will be the year I'll finally convince someone in my house to get a tree — and even though Christmas is over, I still have New Years shenanigans to look forward to.
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