Christmas is coming. So why do Sikhs and Punjabis care? From the adopted homes of Southall, Brampton and Fremont, to the villages surrounding Amritsar, Phagwara and Ludhiana, more Sikhs and Punjabis have begun to celebrate Christmas than ever before. What was once a mere day off from work and excuse for a family get-together has evolved into a festival that is celebrated with all the trimmings (pun intended).
Does this mean that Sikhs and Punjabis have been assimilated into the cult of Christmas? Is “Xmas” itself no longer a celebration of the birth of Christianity and its founder Jesus Christ, but an offering at the altar of excess and commercialisation? If this is the case, why are Sikhs and to a lesser extent Punjabis, following the crowd and buying into the hullabaloo?
We asked our contributors and other Sikh personalities from around the western World to share what they will be doing over the Christmas period, and to comment on how they think Sikhs and Punjabis should (or should not) be participating in the festivities.
“I don’t celebrate Christmas. I spend the holidays working, or meeting friends and colleagues whom otherwise I wouldn’t because of work commitments. My family comes together for a meal on Christmas Day itself, but now as a father I will no longer be doing so. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that this is a ‘special time of the year’ – as a Sikh I want her to understand that the importance we give to the days and nights of our lives should be defined by us, not the other. If we give importance to a date that bears no reflection on the way of life we lead and the history of how we, and she, has come to be, what does that say about who we want to be?”
–Harwinder Singh Mander
“Admit it, we’re all colonised – we don’t have time for non-sensical arguments that demean our intellect. We all have work to do, but that’s for each individual to step up to. For me it can no longer be stop holidays and cut ties, it’s to develop my understanding of self through my native ideology; put to sleep for comfort from our masters whip. It’s to be a little more fearless everyday, reading to myself the shabad ਰਾਖਾ ੲੇਕੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਸੁਅਾਮੀ।।”
–Jagdeep Singh, Miri Piri (EP)
“As Sikhs have a pluralistic outlook, we can morph any cultural holiday into the time and space we want, for example the Vaisakh Harvest and Divali. At Christmas, I enjoy having friends over to play board games as well as eating home-made trimingless dinners. Sitting with a Gujarati, an atheist, an Egyptian and a Nigerian, we enjoy a rich, diverse and reflective look at the year. It’s strange to think about how Sikhs celebrate Christmas more than their own festivals and in fact encourage the consumerism of this time of year. For now, our leadership doesn’t allow us to celebrate our festivals on single unified days, instead we’re still debating whether Vaisakhi is 13th or 14th April. We must make more of Vaisakhi and Bandi Chorr to meet and create real change. If we do that, the emphasis on Christmas will naturally dwindle.”
“From as far back as I can remember, we have celebrated Christmas as a family with food. It’s not that we’re celebrating the festivities – Christian or Pagan – it’s the one time of year that you’re practically forced to down tools and take time off. I welcome the break for rest, relaxation and reflection; and lots of fun with the kids! But I haven’t even begun to think about what Christmas means for me as a Sikh, if anything.”
–Palwinder Kaur Mander