Using Holidays to Soothe Interfaith Relations

Holidays offer great opportunities to start or strengthen relationships.

Major religious holidays for American Christians are Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. The two holiest days in Islam are Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

Eid ul-Fitr is the “Feast of Breaking the Fast.” It concludes the fasting month of Ramadan during which Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid ul-Adha is the “Feast of Sacrifice.” It concludes the period set aside for the pilgrimage to Mecca called the Hajj, and it commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his firstborn son. Both of these times of feasting and celebration start at sunset and last for two or three days.

Christmas is the feast celebrating Jesus’ birthday. It concludes the 4-week period called Advent, and it commemorates God’s willingness to give himself by taking on flesh and blood. Thanksgiving is a feast celebrating God’s providence and provision. Easter is the feast celebrating Jesus’ victory over death by resurrection. Christian feasts usually last no more than one day.

Here are some ideas for leveraging these feast days in your relationships with people in the other religion.

  1. These are times of giving sweets to each other and to children. Give your friend or neighbor a plate of candy, cake, or cookies to help them celebrate.
  2. These are times of giving small gifts to children. Give your friend or neighbor something simple for the children.
  3. These are times for holiday greeting card exchange:a. If you are a Christian, give or mail your friend or neighbor an “Eid Mubarak” greeting card. You can make this yourself with images collected from the Internet or you can order one from a dealer on the Internet.

    b. If you are a Muslim, give or mail your friend or neighbor a “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Thanksgiving,” or “Happy Easter” greeting card. Avoid giving your seriously Christian neighbors the generic “Happy Holidays” cards for Christmas. This suggests disapproval for public recognition of “Christmas.”

  4. This is a time for sending text-message and e-mail holiday greetings.
    a. If you are a Christian, send your friend or neighbor an “Eid Mubarak” or “Happy Feast Day” e-mail or text-message as they begin their celebrations.

    b.If you are a Muslim, send your friend or neighbor a “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Thanksgiving,” or “Happy Easter” e-mail or text-message.

  5. These are times when Muslims drop in on each other (often with house gifts). It’s a time when they expect and are prepared for visitors.a. If you are a Christian, these holidays are good times to visit your Muslim friend or neighbor to introduce yourself or build your relationship. You won’t necessarily need an appointment, but they may be out doing their own spontaneous visiting.

    b. Christians tend to celebrate their holidays more privately than Muslims. It’s a time reserved for close friends and extended family. They do not drop in on one another unannounced as Muslims often do. They do, however, like to share their feast times with outsiders. If you are a Muslim and show curiosity and express desire to find out how a Christian family actually conducts their feast, don’t be surprised if they invite you, and don’t hesitate to join them.

  6. These are times when Muslims ask for forgiveness from one another for any unspecified offenses that they may have committed against each other during the preceding year.

    a. If you are a Christian, ask your Muslim friend or neighbor for general forgiveness on these days. Do not mention any specific offenses! Say something like, “If I’ve done anything to offend you in the time that we’ve known each other, will you please forgive me?”

    b. Christians do not ask for forgiveness from one another for unspecified offenses the way Muslims do. Christians grant forgiveness for specific confessions. If you are a Muslim, you may say to a Christian something like, “If I’ve done anything to offend you in the time that we’ve known each other, will you please tell me what it is so that I can apologize.” Or if you know of something specific, tell them what it is and that you are sorry.

  7. These days are times of heightened religious awareness and instruction.

    a. If you are a Christian, these are good times to ask questions about Islam and Muslim culture, especially about the holiday. However, do not criticize or try to speak knowledgeably about Muhammad or Islam. “Stay in your lane!” You may present yourself as the subject matter expert on Jesus, Christmas, and communion. Let them be the subject matter experts on all things Muslim.

    b. If you are a Muslim, these are good times to ask questions about Christianity and Western culture, especially about the holiday. However, do not criticize or try to speak knowledgeably about Jesus or Christianity. “Stay in your lane!” You may present yourself as the subject matter expert on Muhammad, Muslim Feast days, and salat. Let them be the subject matter experts on all things Christian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *