Can Santa Clause be a Muslim Man?
India is a country of festivals and celebrations. Being a secular country with such vast diversity of religions, we celebrate major festivals almost every month. At Centre for Education and Health Organization (CEHRO), we understand the importance of getting together, celebrating and spreading happiness. From festivals celebrations to birthdays through The Shared Birthday Project, we do everything about which our children are excited with a combination of uniqueness and tradition.
On 25th December 2017, we celebrated Christmas with around 200 attendees at Prajapati Shiv Mandir, Munirka Village. It was like a regular celebration with secret Santa, dance, music, magic show and gifts until Suresh Nanda, one of the attendees, pointed out that we are celebrating Christmas at Shiv Mandir in the heart of the community.
He said, “The fact that it is a Hindu temple is remarkable”. I didn’t know how to respond and what exactly to tell him and hence I ended the topic with a ‘thank you’.
I started wondering how come I didn’t think of it till now. It was a new perspective to look at what we were doing without realising. At the very moment name of the Santa flashed in front of my eyes. Out of 3 Santa we had, one of them was Md. Abdul. He was the most involved Santa and based as far as I am concerned he seems to really enjoy the experience.
Then I thought about my own family and my upbringing. I, being a part of a Brahmin Hindu lower middle-income family, always saw the love, respect and care towards people of every religion in my surrounding but ironically a fear of unknown and distance from other religions and even within Hindu castes. It is a complex social order in which we live and prosper. I must say till now we had accomplished something which seemed impossible to the west when they left India.
The whole event was only made possible because people of different faiths and caste came together. A lot of us didn’t know what is the historical significance of the Christmas itself but I think that doesn’t matter much if we could involve fully in the experience and make most out of it.
I also think, as a country, we are inherently peaceful, inclusive and secular people and it is only when the seed of hatred is sown along with opportunistic mindset we tend to deviate from the religious harmony that comes so spontaneously to us. How else can a Muslim Santa celebrate Christian festival in a Hindu temple and very few people really notice it? It is only when intermingling of different faiths has been normalised; not only normalised but also celebrated. Similar events have been happening at different places at different times in India. So the answer to the question ‘What happens in a Hindu Temple when a Muslim Santa arrives?’ is not a really exciting one. Actually, it is dull because ‘Nobody really noticed or cared’.
I am deeply pained when a person is discriminated or hurt based on religion or caste or identity. Let us all think about making our communities more inclusive, supportive and progressive so that every individual can thrive and prosper. Let us go beyond the pity issues and think about issues which really matters to our people, their survival and growth. I hope to see India creating new benchmarks on progressiveness in the year 2018.
Enjoy a glimpse of the event. Do write to us with your thoughts.
Author: Shiv Poojan, Executive Director of Centre for Education and Health Research Organization and Founder Testify Ed-Quality Initiative.