Growing Up During the Holiday Season…With No Holiday


Malieka Khan

This is a picture of me after going out with my friends for our Christmas photoshoot where I am surrounded by Christmas lights.

Malieka Khan, Section Editor

Every year Christmas comes earlier. And every year we hear that saying about Christmas coming earlier and still do not care because who would want to push such an amazing holiday back? The time of laughter and joy and hot chocolate with just a dash of peppermint served in a red Starbucks cup to alert the media that fall has arrived and with it, Christmas. But, for many people, those cups and candy canes symbolize just simple seasons: fall and winter. 

People do tend to forget behind all the music, movies, and mistletoe madness Christmas, at its core, is a religious holiday. Yet other people, like me, can never forget how much of a religious holiday it is no matter how many gifts seem to bury its true intentions. It is because of those intentions, ever so small and ultimately unimportant in today’s social climate, that I have never officially celebrated the holiday of Christmas. Well, not fully. And though it may seem crazy, I guarantee a percent of those at our very own Yorba Linda High School have not either. 

The 26th of December 2006 I woke up like any other day. I brushed my teeth, I ate my cereal, and I turned on my cartoons. It was a regular Monday for me, the only difference was that the shows I watched just happened to have people in Santa hats and carols being sung. I did not know that one house down there was a tree with lights hung from the tallest branches and a family opening gifts from an old man dressed all in red and white. The first “Christmas” I remember was just another day, and I never thought of it as anything else.

I knew the holiday existed, of course, I just never knew the weight behind that holiday.  When the end of elementary school had rolled around I was the girl who did not celebrate the “best holiday of the year”. Years would pass and with every one of them the same questions would pop up. The usual, “So you don’t get presents for Christmas?”, “Are you going anywhere cool at least?”, and my personal favorite, “What DO you celebrate then?”.

Nothing was always my answer. As a Muslim, I celebrate several of my own religious holidays at other times in the year, but nothing in the month of December specifically. To me, the holiday season is just “winter break” and up until middle school it had stayed that way. 

I never resented or hated this, in fact I was always, and still am, proud. My religious holidays are filled with just as much joy and love as Christmas is to a majority of the world. I always thrived on explaining my holidays to those who were eager to listen. In the same light, whenever I would hear about holidays of other religions around this time, I would be intrigued by every single one. 

From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanza, every holiday with its own story to tell, and I would be ready to listen. This is where my Christmas journey truly began. I would drive around with my family looking at the Brea lights seeing those who I once envied for being able to celebrate this holiday I so badly wanted to be a part of. 

And eventually, I did. Once high school rolled around I would trade secret santa gifts with my friends and I would hand out candy canes and bake cookies. I celebrated my friends and the joy and comfort they bring me, much like the joy and comfort Christmas and their holidays bring them. They were my celebration, more than the holiday itself. Still keeping true to my roots, I never did get a Christmas tree in my house or lights hung around my window, but I mixed my culture and my life in a way that allowed for a balance. A balance that would genuinely make me happy during the holiday season. 

After over a decade of not being able to celebrate a holiday, I have finally found a way to not only embrace it, but also learn to love it in my own regards. I love the holiday season, but it will always simply be the “holiday season” to me. Not Christmas specifically, but a holiday. A day to celebrate the ones I love and the ones who love me. Yes, if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” in the grocery store I will return the kind words. That does not change what these past years have helped me learn. 

Holidays are sacred and special days that come with emotions and memories which should be shared and spread no matter what a person’s beliefs are. I simply wanted to be a part of the happiness and love that was spread during that holiday season. And, the older I grew, the more I learned that it was not Christmas that gave that happiness and love, but rather the people who had that passion and beliefs for their holidays which they spread onto each other, such as I intend to do every year from now on. 

Finally, for the first time since elementary school, I am not the weird one who does not celebrate Christmas, but rather I am the girl that spreads joy and love during both my religious holidays as well as the holiday season. Whether it is my holiday or not, or perhaps not even a holiday at all, I intend to spread that same joy and love to as many people of as many faiths as I possibly can, as I hope many of you Mustangs do as well.