I follow an Indian religion, Sikhism. Sikhism originated out of Northwest India, following the teachings of Guru Nanak. It is a sect of Hinduism that discards the classes and gods.
We have all our own holidays and festivals, but one major question I get is: “Do you celebrate Christmas?”
Yes, I do celebrate Christmas. I have enjoyed the festive lights and surprises wrapped in glittery paper since I can remember.
I even believed in Santa until I found some receipts for my presents in my mom’s purse. Oops.
My religion stresses that we should accept all religions and their practices without judgment. Our holy book says nothing about not involving ourselves in other’s holidays and festivities, so why not with one of the most popular holidays in the country I was born in?
Although my family doesn’t go to church and claim Jesus as our savior, we hop in on the fun…especially when we get free stuff from relatives that want to spoil their first niece or granddaughter.
So what is it like, being a Sikh girl celebrating Christmas?
Well, in reality, it isn’t much different.
I used to wake up earlier than ever, anxious to finally rip open those neatly wrapped gifts that had been taunting me for days. My eyes would widen in glee when I saw the heaping piles of new boxes under the ornament riddled tree. I would bake cookies and set a glass of milk out for Santa, adding carrots for Rudolph and all of the reindeers. I jumped on my parents bed, urging them to wake up so I could share my excitement when I finally ripped through the thin wrapping paper. And then, by mid-afternoon, my family and I would pack into a minivan and travel the two hours to Danville for our annual family Christmas dinner.
Our dinner is a little different. Instead of a traditional “American dinner”, my grandmother, her sisters and my mom and her cousins all make a Punjabi dish (usually kidney beans and rice or butter chicken) and we dine on the homemade food and sweets all night.
Most of the kids usually run off after dinner, wanting to play with the dog or the new baby in the family. The adults socialize and gossip with the “breaking news” in the family and close friends, but mostly and more importantly, they drink wine.
Since I am the only seventeen year old in my maternal family, I either get to babysit the rowdy, younger cousins, or hang out with the adults, deny the offered wine and learn about our fascinating family history.
I usually choose the latter. Being the eldest of my generation in the family means I have to preserve the knowledge of the family and pass it on to my children and hopefully they will pass it on to theirs.
After about three hours of story telling, the young parents of the family decide it is time to turn in and get some rest before the next day, usually full of bowling, shopping and movie going.
We usually celebrate after the celebration is over….it’s just how Punjabi’s roll.
So why is it so hard for people to accept the fact that we celebrate the same holidays as everyone else?
In my opinion, it is because we come from a different background and follow a religion that not many people are familiar with. Sikhs are open to every religion and every celebration.
We love be involved in new experiences at all times. Christmas was a foreign concept to my grandparents when they traveled to the United States during the Vietnam War, but with a little exposure and practice, it became a tradition in our branched out family, and will continue throughout future generations.