What to say when someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian

The air feels festive in my neighbourhood, and it looks so colourful here with the Santa decorations, bells and wreaths on the doors and fairy lights outside the window.


This year is the third time that I’ve spent Christmas in Rome.

Normally the day before, we’d spend it over my in-law’s house and we’d eat a little too much, and talk while we wait till midnight and then proceed in opening our presents.

The thing is, Christmas doesn’t have much significance to me as I never grew up with it. But I am always happy to be included with my extended family – just spending time together, bonding over delicious home-made food, watching the telley and have a nice time together.

Even though I am not a Christian, I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong in sharing happiness together.

What to say if someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian

When I was about 11 years old, and living at my old neighbourhood in Jurong, me and my childhood friend Michael and his sister were celebrating Mid-Autumn festival. We’d be lighting up candles and then we’d walk around proudly with our paper lanterns. It was such innocent fun.

But then it was ruined when a group of kids came, walking up to me :

Tsk! You know, you’re not being very “Malay” playing with paper lanterns. This is a Chinese custom. Stop it! You are being disrespectful to your race!

Of course, being so young, I didn’t have the capacity to express coherently how I felt. But I knew that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I was genuinely happy spending time with Michael and his sister. I couldn’t understand why anyone could be such a kill joy.

The irony now though, after five years of living in Rome, I think I am slowly losing my enthusiasm for spending Hari Raya here. Compared to Singapore, I don’t have a big family here. So when I try to invite people over, they don’t seem to share the same enthusiasm, which doesn’t feel fair considering that I do try hard to care when it comes to their holidays.

rinaz.net christmas

Is it so wrong to feel this way? Perhaps this is something that most migrants feel when they live overseas for an extended period of time.

7 Replies to “What to say when someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian”

  1. I share your sentiments Rinaz, I too, find that there is nothing wrong with sharing the joy of others. I’m really sad when some people are too quick to “judge” about my involvements with Christmas.

    Anyway I don’t think that it’s wrong to feel the way you do. You are far from the place that you used to call home, far from family and traditions that you are accustomed to. It’s only natural that the enthusiasm dissipates, especially when the Italian radio do not play Raya music and the streets of Rome are not adorned with twinkling lights and yummy food stalls.

    1. Ah, I’m sorry that you had that go through with people who judge you for celebrating Christmas. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that these comments are done by people who aren’t living there so they probably aren’t aware of the situation that we are experiencing. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t know what to do if they had to face the same situation.

      Well, I’ve tried to create the same atmosphere at least, listening to online radio during Ramadan, then cooking my favourites on Eid itself. But to me, I think the company is one of the most essential. Spending Eid with so little people is so lonely and cheerless.

  2. I hear you Rinaz! Eid in Australia vs Singapore is vastly different. Because we are the minority, don’t expect people to know when Eid is or know what to do. So it’s understandable that you feel like they don’t care as much as we care for their events. They just don’t know. I give gingerbread to my work mates for Christmas and wish them a good holiday but when it’s Eid, I get nothing. It doesn’t bother me, it’s been like that as far as I can remember. I guess it’s the way you look at it at the end of the day. 🙂

    1. I think you are a lot more understanding than me! That’s true in that it’s how you look at it. Well, I have tried to share the festivities with others, making some of my favourite foods, sharing them with the neighbours, inviting people over for dinner and hope that they enjoyed themselves.

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