Thursday, December 22, 2005


There has been lots of hullabaloo lately about the separation of Church and State and using the word "Christmas" in public settings. Isaac's teachers have wished me "Happy Holidays", and I know they have to be careful not to let the X-word slip. As a Muslim, I understand the argument, but I have surprised myself by being on the side of the right-wingers on this one. Christmas is an important part of most Americans' traditions and I don't think it should be censored. But I suppose I am still a little different from the likes of Pat Robertson...I think we should follow Bangladesh's model and just celebrate ALL the holidays.

In Bangladesh, most people are Muslim, so the Islamic holidays are most widely celebrated. Islam is a very holiday-oriented faith...lots o' there are lots of Islam-related vaycays. (The month of Ramadan is not an official holiday, but people who do work walk around in semi-comas all day until it's time to eat, so it might as well be a holiday. The end of Ramadan, marked by Eid-al-Fitr, is celebrated for up to a week.) Being the inclusive secular organization that it is [please note that I'm typing with an facetious expression on my face], the Bangladeshi government also observes the holidays of the FOUR major religions in Bangladesh.

This is kind of funny, seeing as there are really only two major religions. Most Bangladeshis are Muslim (83%), followed by Hindu (16%), and then Christians and Buddhists fall into the 1% that's left over. But just because they only make up 1% doesn't mean they should be left out. I mean, 1% of 140 million people is actually a lot of people. Important Hindu holidays are observed, of course, and I remember getting a few days off for some kind of Buddhist deal. I think I saw two Buddhists the entire time I was in Bangladesh. They must have felt very special on their holiday. The entire country shut down, just for them!

Christmas is a holiday if it falls on a workday. The Awami League even moved a strike last year because it fell on Christmas day and they didn't want to offend the <1% of people who are Christians by messing up their big day.

I'm an advocate of hedonism, so I say celebrate them all! It would be very depressing for me to not get give presents at Christmas, because it's a big cultural deal for me. I don't give a crap about the "true meaning", whatever that is, but I like the idea that we all get together, eat a lot, and give each other thoughtful gifts! that the "true meaning"? Then I guess I do give a crap.

Also, I enjoy the gluttony that is Eid (not so much the bloodbath that is korbani Eid). I liked the loud and gaudy Durga Pooja celebrations. I like Easter candy. I think Halloween is great. And after all of this self-indulgence, a good, restraint-filled Buddhist holiday would bring it all back into perspective for me.

So, instead of arguing over the fine line that exists between Church and State, I think we should all just load up on egg nog and fruitcake. Although I think egg nog is gross, so I'll just have some other beverage. And I guess I'd rather have chocolate cake than fruitcake. But just because I think egg nog is gross doesn't mean I will restrict others from enjoying egg nog. It is, as they say, a free country. Isn't it?

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