In light of lights
The child of Muslim parents, I plan to do my share of spreading joy and hope to add one more drop to the vast ocean of peace
December 13, 2005
My Christmas shopping has been postponed for as long as possible, but time is drawing near and I know that sooner or later, I’ll have to face the chaos of those malls. No use reminding myself that it’s not my holiday, for I haven’t met anyone, from any background, who isn’t involved in one way or another. This reminds me that I haven’t sent any Christmas cards, either. My calendar says there are two weeks remaining and if I write the cards this week, chances are they’ll be delivered on time, even to those in Europe. Maybe I’m just lazy, then again, maybe not. After all, I wasn’t so lazy last week when it came to driving through Point Loma to admire the Christmas lights.
When we lived in Chicago, every winter we drove the kids through snowy streets of suburban Lincolnwood to see the Christmas decorations and what had turned into a neighborhood competition. True that after so many years, the huge tree chopped into three pieces and made to look as if it drove through all three levels of a house may have lost its novelty – it hadn’t really. Each year, it looked as if more houses joined in and as more spectators were lured, traffic backed up and many decided to park their cars and walk. The lazy bunch that we were, we stayed in our heated car and drove where it was possible and, no doubt, missed many wonderful decorations.
Living in California, where a white Christmas only exists in Hollywood, I now understand my own fascination with Christmas lights. It has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, or the festivities. To me this is a journey back to my childhood and all the “cheraghoonis” of decades ago. I recall vividly how Akbar, our driver, would pile up all of us into the Land Rover and drive extra slowly through the commercial district. We marveled at the beaming lights and the decorations. Although I don’t remember the exact reason for the festivity, I’m sure that, too, was a religious celebration. I loved how our town changed overnight as thousands of colorful lights suddenly turned those ordinary streets into a magical fairyland.
The bright lights of Christmas bring back the memory of better days and, regardless of the reason behind them, in a world where good news have become a commodity, any holiday is a welcome change.
When it comes to religion, I don’t do anything that would remotely connect me to any particular sect, however, born to a Muslim family, when someone attacks Islam I put my guard up and rise to its defense. Just last week, one of my Christian friends brought out the worst in me by mocking Muslims for their mourning rituals. “Did you see on TV how Muslims gather and mourn the death of some saint who died fourteen centuries ago?” she asked me.
I had heard just about enough of that ignorance. “First of all, he didn’t just die, he was martyred,” I said and seeing the puzzled look on her face I went on, “And why not? I don’t see Christians forgetting how Jesus was crucified, even though that happened twenty-one centuries ago.”
My outburst surprised even me. Where do I get off defending a religion that I know little about and have never practiced? Then again, my parents and grandparents and everyone in my memorable lineage were devout Muslims and I’ll be damned if I let anyone insult their faith.
The dreamer in me continues to picture a day when all religions will come together and people will have better things to do with their lives than argue over who owns a better part of Paradise. We believe we are so different and yet, we find the same joy in viewing brilliant display of holiday lights and simple acts of kindness. As for now, I plan to join the celebratory mood of this world and enjoy the sharing and caring of this joyful season. By the time Christmas rolls around, I will have enough presents to please those who expect one, my cards will be in the mail and, with my charities in order, I may feel better about who I am. The child of Muslim parents, I plan to do my share of spreading joy and hope to add one more drop to the vast ocean of peace.
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance
writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e
Gham" (see excerpt).
Visit her site ZoesWordGarden.com