Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Party

It's great fun being a Muslim at Christmas parties. Certain events seem destined to repeat themselves forever at every party. A few of them occur after a few drinks. As a sober Muslim watching from the sidelines, it can make for an interesting spectacle.

We attend dozens of Christmas parties from work around this time, but the main one is the Big One thrown by our company for ALL its employees at a five-star hotel. To give you an indication as to how big an event this is, our company owns the hotel. Naturally, the food is good and the portions generous - plus it's an open bar.

At the party, after filling up my plate with lots of food with French names, I stand behind many others at the bar. One by one we are served until its my turn. The server looks at me, "Yes, what drink can I get you, sir?"

"I will have a glass of orange juice, please."

Every year, I wish I could capture the expression on the server's face at the moment I request an orange juice. I think perhaps this year I will take my cellphone camera and freeze that moment. He will look at me with a wtf-is-he-crazy look and reply, "Excuse me?"

"I will have a glass of orange juice, please."

A pause, and then, "May I inform you sir, that it's an open bar?" It's free.

"Sure. An orange juice will be fine." Then I will give a satisfied smile as the server has to search the area to get my beverage.

As the party gets livelier, someone will start an argument that Christmas is somewhat cheapened by wishing 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'.

"No one takes offense at what you wish." He will say, "So why don't they say Merry Christmas?"

At this moment the bosses are looking somewhat uncomfortable until someone butts in, "Exactly! No one cares what you wish them. Christmas or Happy Holidays - take your pick! Shut up Jim!" Lots of laughter, and we go on discussing our holiday plans.

I agree in part with the semi-drunk person, though. Sometimes political correctness can be taken to an extreme. This year, I got a Christmas card from my client inviting me to their party. This is what it said, "We ---- would like to invite you to our Happy Holiday Bash. Come celebrate the season with some good fun and multi-cultural food."

So we now take offense at what food is being served? I'm sorry, but I take offense at when a black person is stopped without reason by the police, when a Muslim is arrested without charges being laid, when a woman is fired from her work for being pregnant. I don't take offense if a kebob is absent from the food served.

However, I don't think Christmas is being 'hijacked'. We all know what season this is. As long as Christians maintain the spirit of the season, I think they can rest easy. After all, that's what we stress in Ramadan. It's not just the abstinence, it's the spirit of being a better person, a better Muslim.

And finally, my favourite character. The guy who can claim with a straight face that Katrina was God's wrath on the US for Iraq (the polar opposite of the racist who will claim the earthquake in Pakistan is 'his' God's wrath). Usually, on the day of a party, my MSN will have a nick like 'Christmas party today' or something equally, um, informative. Then this guy will message me.

"You know attending a Christmas party is celebrating Christmas, right?"

I say nothing, as he continues, "And by celebrating Christmas you are committing shirk. Do you know how big a sin it is? So, technically, you should not be attending Christmas parties."

Okay. Technically, as you say, you are at work. And so am I. And you should not be chatting. You should be working.

I don't know too much about these trivial issues. I am just going to a gathering of friends where no one is worshipping anything or saying anything against Islam. And I leave when people start getting drunk. It's just a party with lots of free food.

People should just chill.

With a glass of orange juice, of course.



AT said...

this christmas i predict, u will get a new, it's not's ur local politician offering u whole lots of, I mean...LOL

Isheeta said...

LOL... Its funny how holidays can be cheapened and analyzed to death with the whole happy holidays vs merry xmas debate! Its ironic how attendance by muslims to a christian gathering is considered haram, while if people from other religions make an effort to understand our religion and accept an invitation to an iftar party, its considered learning and multi-cultural!!!

ExitOnly said...

Gawd, have you ever read Humayun Ahmed? You write like him, only in English.
ABout Christmas parties... well, most Christmas paarties are not really Christmas parties where things would get religious, they are mostly just parties for the heck of it. But I remember attending one christmas party from my work, and the whole time was an embarrassment as they did some sort of game where it tested your knowledge about Christmas related stuff i.e. songs and stuff. I knew NO-thing.
I am not going to go into whether or not it's really actually actively celebrating it when we get invited. However, I think we need to be cautious as our Holidays are different than theirs. But I take upon all the free food offer I get, so I will shut up. But the arguments against going to these parties make sense to me, for some reason.
All right, good night! :)

zainub said...

I've traveled to the States a few times, but not in winter holiday season, otherwise I've lived all my life in a Muslim country, so I can't related to what you're saying. I have no time for people whose favorite past times it seems is declaring things haram , shirk, bidat etc. with no authentic proof, but I suppose it's a matter of what people are comfortable with, and what they aren't comfortable with. I wouldn't feel comfortable seeing people get drunk all around me for real, even though I see it happening all the time on telly, in cricket games, so I can imagine how it can be different with Muslims living in a non-Muslim country. On the free food offer, I'm just wondering, there can't be much on the free food menu that a Muslim can eat, can there be? I’m just asking out of curiosity.

Aisha said...

LOL sounds like a party straight out of "The Office"

Shabina said...

who needs xmas when there's festivus? i am heading to fancy dancy xmas work party tomm as the "date" of one of my friends - she's even picking me up from my house! If only guys could excude such chivalry...

mezba said...

Arnab: It has begun already (the GST cut, the gun crime ban).

Isheeta: Considering that Christmas parties are really not religious, but iftar parties are, that's so true. But I think attitudes are changing here. First gen immigrants haven't been exposed to other cultures, but their kids grow up with it. Sometimes I don't know which is bigger, the gap between diff cultures in Toronto, or the generation gap between desi parents and desi kids.

ExitOnly: Never read Humayun Ahmed, saw one of his dramas though, so I will take the compliment, thanx! I can understand not celebrating other religion's events (like I wudn't see any point in going to a mass), but office christmas parties are usually office parties.

Zainub: It does become a little uncomfortable to deal with drunks (as people become very honest about their feeeeeeeelings), so I leave as soon as I see signs of it. However our company gives free taxi rides home to workers (supposedly drunk). As for food, its Toronto. There's always something on the menu you can eat. Depends on how orthodox you are I guess. Some people 'Bismilliah' the meat, others stick to the Scallion, Sauteed Sea Conch, crab meat, Abalone and fille de minion (make face here).

Aisha: Never saw the Office but heard the original British one is better than the American one.

Shabina: Fancy party? What are you going as?

mayaboti said...

"...honest about their feeeeeeeelings" that cracked me up. :)

Masti-boy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Masti-boy said...

Did you get McDonalad toy also with orange juice?

AGA said...

j' aime les filles de minion, every last one of them. LOL

Fatima said...

Must have been fun, I suppose. =) But aren't we supposed to avoid places where alcohol is served? Based on this hadith:
On the authority of Jaabir who said: "The Prophet said: "Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him not allow his wife to go to the Public baths. Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him not go to the baths except with a waist-cloth. And whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him never sit at a table at which intoxicants are being circulated." [Al-Haakim, at-Tirmidhee and others: Saheeh]

mezba said...

Mayaboti, lol!

Masti-boy, ridiculous comment, as usual.

AGA, sorry, don't speak French.

Fatima, I think your and mine interpretation of the hadith differs.