Local teens celebrate variety of faith holidays

By From page C6 | December 16, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Somewhere in Mouzima Mousumi’s house are photos of her on Santa’s lap.

She loves the Christmas season, the movie “Home Alone” and the occasional cup of eggnog on a crisp winter day. But when that time of the year comes, Mousumi, a senior at Rodriguez High School, doesn’t hang stockings or put up a Christmas tree, for one very important reason: She is Muslim.

“My religion doesn’t celebrate Christmas and I don’t do anything on Christmas day,” said Mousumi. “Islam is monotheistic, similar to Christianity, but we don’t celebrate the birth of any of our prophets.”

While it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas across the country and globe, there are many people of different religious backgrounds who don’t include the celebration into their holiday plans. This includes Jews who celebrate Hanukkah, members of Iglesia ni Cristo and Muslims, such as Mousumi, who celebrate Eid, a celebration that marks the end of the fast of Ramadan. Unlike Christmas, Eid lands on a different day every year (this year it was in August) and when Mousumi rises early on the day of celebration, she doesn’t tip-toe down the stairs to open gifts.

“We wake up at 6 a.m. and go to morning prayer,” said Mousumi. “We pray five times, and ‘house hop’ (from relative to relative). At each house, kids get money. My family has one giant party where we eat, dance and take pictures.”

Because her religion celebrates Eid, Mousumi said she’s never felt like she missed out during the holiday season.

“I’ve never had a Christmas tree in the house because my Dad doesn’t want to encourage it, he doesn’t want our cultures to get mixed up,” said Mousumi. “I don’t mind not being able to celebrate Christmas since I grew up in America. It does suck sometimes, but Eid makes up for it. We have our Christmas before the holiday season even starts.”

Rodriguez freshman Alexander Tolkan’s Jewish family tunes out of Christmas and celebrates another holiday as well.

“We celebrate Hanukkah, which is 8 days (long),” Tolkan said. Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish victory over Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

“We have dinner every day and my dad cooks; sometimes we have the leftovers from the last days,” he said. On Christmas Day, they eat out at a Chinese restaurant (which are open because Chinese are traditionally Buddhist).

“Since Christmas is everywhere it gets kind of old, especially since I’m not involved in it,” Tolkan said. “But one time we had our Catholic grandmother come over (during Christmas) and we had a Christmas tree with Jewish ornaments on it.”

Rodriguez senior Alexis Del Rosario, who is a member of Iglesia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ, said her religion believes in the birth of Christ but not in the celebration of his birth.

“To us, it’s a man-made holiday in that we decided his date of birth, since it was not recorded in the Bible,” Del Rosario said. She compensates for her religion’s view of the holiday by giving gifts to her family on New Year’s Day.

“Christmas is just another day for me, we go to our Catholic side of the family’s Christmas gathering, but we don’t exactly believe in the holiday because the Bible doesn’t say when exactly he was born. I don’t feel deprived because I’ve grown up not celebrating Christmas,” Del Rosario said. “But I do love Christmas music and I will jam to ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside.’ ”

Freshman Pravan Prasad, who is Hindu, said his parents want him to feel part of the American culture while also sticking to his Indian roots. He celebrates Christmas, in addition to the births of Krishna, one of the most popular gods in the Hindu pantheon, and Sai Baba, an influential Indian guru.

“As Hindus, we have lots of gods. (Similarly) we celebrate the birth of Krishna and Sai Baba, which are spread throughout the year. We give offerings to the gods, have family come over, play religious songs and read the Ramayana,” Prasad said.

When winter comes, it begins to look a lot like Christmas in Prasad’s home.

“My family puts up a Christmas tree, ornaments, stockings and has a huge celebration with family,” he said.

Rodriguez senior Nesrine Majzoub, who is Christian, spends her Christmas Eve at church.

“My family and I attend the Christmas Eve service at my church (to) celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a really great reminder of how much God loves us by sending Jesus to save us. (So) at the service, we sing songs, pray, read the Bible and listen to a message. My family always has a delicious feast on Christmas Eve and we exchange gifts Christmas morning. I always wear my ugliest Christmas sweater.”

Ericka Guevarra is a student at Rodriguez High School in Fairfield.

Ericka Guevarra


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