Every year for the past 27 years the months leading up to Christmas triggers mixed emotions. Thankfully they get less as time passes but I do understand a revert’s experience of Christmas blues. It used to be a big celebration in our house. Every year we’d have people over to stay during the festive season and Boxing Day was open door to everyone to pop in for food, fun and games. Our home swelled with revellers. As soon as I became a Muslim that all stopped. I lived miles away from my family and chose not to celebrate Christmas for obvious reasons. But I was also new to the Muslim community who didn’t understand my attachments to this time of year, or the grief and loneliness I experienced by not being able to participate. It was also compounded by not having anything to replace it with or anybody to share time off work.
As a Muslim I found it easy to disassociate myself from the religious and pagan element of Christmas. I could see through the commercialism, extravagance, and waste. I didn’t miss the alcohol or the peer pressure to party or give gifts. I didn’t even miss the excessiveness in food. It was the closeness of family and friends I missed most. My family missed it too and our relationship became so strained, my dad threatened to disinherit me because I didn’t celebrate Christmas or even bother to ring to wish them a ‘happy xmas.’ It was a very distressing and heart-breaking time and took a while for our relationship to mend. I had to seek scholarly advice in the end and received a personalised fatawa to resolve the issue. As time has elapsed it has been easier to voice my stance and my dad has reluctantly compromised. However I still empathise with revert sisters who struggle during this time of year.
I don’t want to dwell on the negative and depress you my dear readers, but we need to be realistic about the life of this world. It’s not perfect and we should not buy into the fake advertising that promotes xmas and the New year with this rosy picture. It’s not true that you need alcohol, music, dancing, free mixing, and expensive gifts to have a good time. If anything these are a recipe for disaster and will intensify the strains already placed on individuals and their families. It is true that good company and good conversation are vital ingredients for boosting eemaan (faith) and improving mental health and well-being. But there are now many alternative gatherings for sisters compared to a few decades ago. More revert support organisations have set up in UK cities to provide ‘in person’ gatherings, and there are more online gatherings for sisters living in isolated areas. There are also several online events and Islamic talks to enrol onto during this time of the year.
If you’re feeling down this winter instead of hibernating under a duvet, aim to do something different, either individually or in a group. It may take a little preparation and planning, but it will be worth it to avoid the xmas blues, bi’idhnillah. Here are a few tips that may help you. The last three should be priority:
- Get up and move around. Create routines, go on walks, or take up exercise
- Re-direct your focus and take up new projects, a new sport, hobby, or interest or set yourself a challenge or a goal
- Stimulate your mind with new subjects to learn whether it’s connected to your faith or otherwise. Use a variety of resources such as books, videos, documentaries, online research, courses, workshops etc
- Set aside some time. Plan what you need and list the steps you need to take to achieve your goal
- Plan a timetable, with milestones and set yourself a deadline
- Build in breaks and rewards to keep you motivated
- Stay connected with family and friends. Text, ring them and arrange to meet up in halal environments
- Reach out to the Muslim community for your social and emotional needs. Sign up to talks, get togethers, join WhatsApp groups and online platforms for social updates
- Join non-Muslim activities that are halal and non xmas related
- Volunteer for Muslim charities and organisations. Giving back to the community is highly rewarding and personally satisfying. You also get to meet new people, make new friends and it may open doors to many more opportunities, bi’idhnillah
- Connect more with Allah this month. The days are short, and the nights are long so concentrate on increasing your acts of worship by praying, fasting, reading, and reciting Quran and learning more about our beautiful religion, about the prophet’s seerah (life), the prophets and companions. There are a number of videos and podcasts that cover these topics
- Achieve contentment of the heart through your connection with Allah. Enjoy the simple pleasures. Recognise and thank Allah for all your blessings, big and small.
- Re-fresh your intention. Make dua and ask Allah to guide you to activities that will fulfil your needs
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 27 years and lives in the UK with her family. Her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ and her second and third book in the series, ‘Turning back to Allah’ and ‘Tides of Change’ are available from Kube Publishing. You can follow @aliya_vaughan on Instagram