Christmas Lights in Berkeley
Some people believe as Iranians and born Moslems, Christmas is not a celebration for us. I have known Iranian parents who tell their kids "We are not Christian, so we don't celebrate Christmas." I have even known of people who in that same vein, tell their very young children that there is no Santa Claus. That all seems so unnecessarily cruel to me, more so to the children, but also to the adults who think that way. I think in addition to Iranian customs and celebrations which are very important to our identity, there is no harm in taking other opportunities to celebrate. Especially those occasions which enable us to be a part of the community and nation which we now call our home. I fell in love with Christmas the first year I came to US as astudent almost three decades ago. I loved the lights, the colors, the presents, and the good spirit people had around Christmas. Though even then I was aware that this is a Christian holiday in origin, I never felt excluded from the celebrations by virtue of my religion or nationality. Much talk goes around about how commercial Christmas has become. It doesn't feel commercial to me, as I celebrate it for the joy and happiness it brings me and my family. When we moved to Tehran in 1992, finding a Christmas tree and a turkey became a fairly complicated annual task. In Tehran these days, you can find perfect Christmas trees and huge turkeys to celebrate Christmas. In the early 1990's however, I wasn't so lucky, so I had to do with what I could find.While we could find Christmas trees in the Armenian neighborhoods of Tehran, because Greek Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas a little later on January 1st, finding a tree a few weeks before December 25th wasn't always very easy. Some years I could find perfect trees, and some years I would find less than perfect ones which might be crooked or bald, threating to topple over (and topple they did a few times!). The turkeys from those first years in Tehran were also a memorable story. That first year in Tehran, when I asked a relative to help me find a turkey for our Christmas dinner, he delivered a live turkey to my door! The next year, the same relative who had had to put up with my complaints for a whole year, delivered a turkey that had been shot in a hunt. The next year life did not improve that much, as the turkey I received, though not alive nor shot, had all its feathers on it intact, and I had to be the one to clean it before cooking it! Until you have had to do the deed, you won't know what a gruesome task this is! In later years, turkey farms were developed and I could get a decent turkey in most butcher shops. My family would celebrate Christmas with tens of other friends and relatives each year. Santa would come, too, but would only deliver "surprise" small gifts, seldom things on a wish list. I live in these parts again. My children are grown and have now come to appreciate Christmas for the chance to be with family. Three decades on, I still don't believe Christmas is an "overly commercial" event, or a "stressful time of year," as many suggest. I think it is a time to come together, celebrate, visit with family and friends, and contemplate peace. For me it continues to be a time to be happy and festive regardless of our religeous beliefs. No matter what our spiritual beliefs, we all know and appreciate and need peace, now more than ever. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and invite you all to join me in praying for, or wishing for, peace on earth. Merry Christmas To All!