Navigating Non-Muslim Holidays

Once a person says Shahada, many things change. For some, it can feel like our whole world has turned
upside down and can cause some difficulty with a certain grief over the loss of old traditions. Some new
Muslims may not feel sadness, rather a feeling of uncertainty, confusion, or aimlessness when it comes to
both old traditions and building new traditions while learning about new holidays.

There may be memories that tug at our heartstrings built on years of special times and happy moments.
There’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic, however when certain aspect of being a Muslim convert
make you feel as though you lost something, try to mindfully change your perspective. Change can
sometimes be difficult. Change isn’t always bad, and you can shift your mindset to battle negative
feelings if you struggle with change. Instead of focusing on traditions lost, remember that you have
something new to celebrate and experience. In fact, many of the ways you may have celebrated your pre-
shahada holidays, you can participate for the Eids including festive décor, family or friend’s gatherings,
special meal or special recipes you only prepare during Ramadan or Eid, dressing your best, Eid Prayer
and exchanging gifts if you should choose to. You can create new traditions. If you still feel a little
nostalgic while the rest of the country celebrates a non-Muslim holiday, you can lift your spirits with
alternatives. Example, you may not put-up Christmas tree or light a menorah, but you can still decorate
your home in a winter theme. Many lovely secular winter decorations can be found during the holiday
season such as snowflakes, snowmen, woody theme, poinsettias, or things that are extra festive.

*A good tip- plan ahead and look for Eid decorations during the winter holiday season, as you may find
pretty lights, moons, stars, festive secular dishes, home décor or my personal favorite, anything that

Living with non-Muslim family or roommates during holidays
There are many cases in which a person chooses to convert to Islam while sharing a home long or short
term with non-Muslim family or friends. Clearly in these cases, we can’t expect these individuals to
sacrifice their own holidays or traditions because of our choices. In sha’ Allah we pray these loved ones
will come to Islam someday. Part of the journey of being Muslim convert in a non-Muslim country is to
cope with interfaith interactions as respectfully as possible to all persons involved.

I divorced after being married for 19 years and my daughter was the age of 16. That alone meant that
nearly 2 decades of happy family traditions would become completely different for her. I converted to
Islam not long after my divorce. In fact, during much of the last year of my marriage, I had been reading
Qur’an and learning about Islam. Within months, I changed my life, and by default, changed my
daughter’s life with two major events. The last thing I would ever do is to rob her of joy or security and
create negative feelings towards Islam for her. I treaded very lightly with certain sudden lifestyle changes
to combat any unnecessary anxiety I could’ve caused. That doesn’t mean I didn’t make changes. I made
many changes while studying Islam in preparation to convert, that went completely unnoticed to non-
Muslims, while other changes I made (and am still making gradually.)

I allow my daughter to put out some secular holiday decorations she wishes. Some years she has put a few
things in her bedroom only and other times she likes to decorate shared living spaces. Over the years, the
amount of vigor which she decorates completely depends on her mood from year to year. We were
secular holiday celebrators and didn’t attend church services so that was not sacrifice for us personally.
As time passes and our lives continue to evolve, the old traditions no longer followed, didn’t seem to

matter to her quite as much as when she was younger. We can wander around in our happy memories
without grieving them, Still, she and I do live in a multi faith home/family but because we love and
respect each other, we find ways to compromise.

Lastly, let’s remember that when we take shahada it’s not just our lives that become affected. Our loved
ones didn’t ask for this change and many times, don’t support the decision. Being harsh about changes
during a time that can be so incredibly sentimental for family is not the way to share Islam with loved
ones. Try to remember that your conversion to Islam could put loved ones in state of fear, sadness, or
confusion. They may need our patience as we hope they will be supporting and patient with us. At some
point, talking with loved ones about the differences between our holidays and about our differences and
similarities of our beliefs about the prophet Jesus; peace be upon him, is a great conversation to have with
them when you feel the time is right. What’s important to remember while making traditional changes
with family during the holiday season is that there are some things we should not compromise on. We do
not “celebrate” Christmas although we may choose to attend a family or gathering. We don’t celebrate
the birth of Jesus and we don’t worship Jesus; peace be upon him. Please don’t allow anyone to pressure
you into praying a non-Muslim prayer or service. If you don’t have to compromise on anything when it
comes to Hannukah, Christmas or any other non-Muslim holiday, that’s great, you can focus completely
on building special traditions for Muslim holidays! For those still navigating this journey in choppy
waters, I hope this helps.

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