What does a Hindu Christmas look like?


Preetika Jasmath
Preetika Ajoodha

My friend Preetika Ajoodha was born and raised in Johannesburg Fordsburg into a Gujarati Hindu family. She is one of few remaining people who really love LONG phone calls and will always volunteer to call you back – she works for a major Telecomms network which apparently affords generous privileges in this regard.

This is Preetika’s story about how she celebrates the holidays:

I strongly believe that religion in any household is led by the mum in the home. It is from this premise that I explain the way in which I practice Hinduism. My dad, whose mum died when he was very young, is not a religious person. While he is Hindu, he is not religious. On the other hand my mum came from a very traditional Hindu family and while not fanatical, my mum is religious, and practices the rites and rituals of Hinduism.

My siblings and I were thus brought up with a lot of balance as far as religion is concerned, so we are all practicing Hindu’s and strong in our faith, but in a very liberal sense.

Teeks - Diwali 2012 2
Teeks hubby guiding their son through prayers on Diwali
Teeks - Diwali 2012
Trying again.

Our parents always gave us the choice to choose which rituals we practiced and which we didn’t For example, we have never been forced to fast on a Monday, because it is a ritual, or because my mum fasts.

So if I have to describe myself in terms of religion, I would say, yes I am a Hindu – I agree with all the teachings of Hinduism. But I do not believe that in order to practice the religion I need to conduct all the rites and rituals that go with it.

Back to the present – 16 years ago I met my husband, who was brought up very opposite to me in terms of his religious up-bring. He comes from a very traditional Hindu family – who practice all the rites and rituals. My husband, if I were to describe him, is religious.

Uncles and cousins
Uncles and cousins

Having our own family now means we have to find a middle ground on raising our own kids. For me that middle ground includes respecting and participating in rites and rituals part of Hinduism that he (my husband) values and teaching our children about those. It also means that we are very tolerant of and understanding of other religions.

There are no events in Hinduism that happen during Christmas. Diwali, the festival of lights take place approximately 2 month before Christmas. We do not celebrate any Christmas traditions.

I asked “Teeks” how she feels about the holidays being typically Christian with all the pomp and ceremony that goes along with it? How do you manage the integration with your children and family?

Aunties and more cousins
Aunties and more cousins

I love this question, because Hinduism by its very nature, teaches tolerance of other religions. You will find that many Hindu’s are not bothered in the least about the pomp and ceremony surrounding Christmas, in fact, I personally love everything about Christmas. I think it has a lot to do with the spirit of Christmas, everything and everyone seems lighter and happier and that makes me happy, even Boney M makes me happy. Lol.

Because we live in a society where Christmas is celebrated you will find many Hindu’s especially those with young children, also participate in some of the rituals, like putting up a Christmas tree, and giving children gifts, some also do traditional Christmas lunches.

More family. More cousins.
More family. More cousins.

Children are also exposed to Christmas and its traditions at school, so it only makes sense to embrace them – my son’s school is having Christmas lunch at school tomorrow, with pressies etc – I am happy that he participates. This way he gets to immerse himself into anther religion and learn about it. I believe it is my job as a parent to ensure he learns about our religion and the distinction between religions.

A friends 4-year-old recently asked her “Mummy are we were Indian or are we Christmas.”

The simple answer was yes we are Indian but we “can” also celebrate Christmas.

And... here's Teeks with another cousin...
And… here’s Teeks with another cousin…

In my opinion Hindu’s are tolerant because we believe that ultimately there is one God and it doesn’t matter what religion you practice. Our family has created our own Christmas tradition by having a family braai every year; aunts, uncles cousins, everyone is invited.

So, Merry Christmas. P.S. Even though I am not Christian and do not celebrate Christmas, I do except presents 🙂

Thank you Preetika for sharing your story with me and allowing me to publish it here on my blog.

I learnt a couple of things from Preetika through her story:

  • Family above all. The holidays will be made all the richer if loved ones are with you.
  • Tolerance is not about denial, it’s about accepting that there are people with different views to our own. Really accepting.

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