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Christmas decorations in Athens: At a Greek bakery in Montreal, Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed learned about a special bread prepared to mark New Year’s with a coin inside and the year written on the bread. Her kids thought that was pretty cool.


LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP/Getty Images

As the holidays draw nearer, I am all about the Christmas carols, gingerbread cookies and falalala-ing. I enjoy the festive season — with one exception. I don’t celebrate Christmas. That doesn’t make me any less merry, it just means that come the 25th of December, my family will not be gathered around a Christmas tree.

We don’t celebrate anything else at this time of year either, and that’s all right. It’s a question I get asked often. People often figure that if I don’t celebrate Christmas, then surely I must be busy celebrating something else. The answer is quite simply, no. I do love the holiday season though. To me, people tend to be happier, more joyful, giving, festive and generous. 

I enjoy shopping for friends and family (not necessarily for Christmas), taking advantage of good deals, baking with the kids (because that is simply what is done during winter at our house), watching holiday movies (because who could resist) and enjoying downtime as a family. 

I love celebrating the season with my friends, and hearing about them prepping presents for their families, baking, shopping and planning out the holidays. 

When the opportunity presents itself, or it’s needed, as someone who does not celebrate Christmas, I am happy to cover for a colleague who does, because that is the right thing to do. 

Wednesday evening, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a couple of things. When I was leaving, I wished the gentleman behind the counter Happy Holidays. He was heavily pierced and tattooed, and I had no way of knowing whether he celebrates Christmas or what sort of religious affiliation he might have. He looked at me and smiled. He made a gesture toward my hijab and said he wanted to wish me something but didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to offend me. I told him I appreciated the sentiment, and I’m happy to wish everyone a happy whatever they celebrate. It doesn’t have to be complicated. When it’s Hanukkah, I reach out to my friends celebrating to wish them a happy holiday. I do the same thing around Diwali, Vaisakhi, Easter — and the list goes on.

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Growing up in Montreal, I have come to love the differences we share. I enjoy learning about how families celebrate: symbolic acts and practices that matter on a spiritual level. Now, as a parent, I love hearing stories of how faith and traditions are passed on to the next generation.

We are uniquely positioned globally to be able to enjoy and help celebrate each other’s celebrations. Sharing in someone else’s happiness does not take away from our own. Happiness is not a cake.

Speaking of cakes, earlier this week, I stopped in at a local Greek bakery and spoke to the owner about how they are preparing to celebrate Greek Orthodox Christmas. I picked up some Greek delicacies and brought them home for my family. As we were enjoying our dessert, I told my kids about how Greeks prepare a special bread for New Year’s with the year carved into it and a coin inside of it. Whoever gets the coin is said to be blessed with good luck for the following year. They thought it was fun and cool, and asked if we could do something like that (carving the name into the bread) when making homemade naan next time. I said sure.

If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry one. If you’re like me and don’t celebrate, why not take this time to enjoy the season, show a little kindness and, in honour of one of my favourite episodes of Seinfeld: Merry Festivus to the Rest of Us.

Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed is the founder and editor in chief of CanadianMomEh.com, a lifestyle blog, and a former member of a school governing board.

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