Christmas is everywhere. Once December draws in it’s impossible to escape some sort of festive cheer, but does that mean as Sikhs we should celebrate it too? We think it’s a question to consider and we’ve got some ideas for anyone thinking the same.
It’s important to remember Christmas is a religious occasion, the biggest in the Christian calendar, marking the birth of Jesus. Going to school in the UK many Sikhs will have participated in nativity plays and carol singing as these activities are embedded in the school curriculum inspired by Church of England values.
Outside of school, the commercial world spends millions on TV adverts all competing for the most cozy Christmas vibe. Festive lights in town centres leave us feeling starry eyed not to mention the houses up and down the country sporting a giant sized Santa bopping to a winter breeze. It’s hard not to get in the mood, right?
As Sikhs December is officially a time of Sacrifice, known as Poh. At the beginning of the month we remember Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji who gave up his life to support Hindus who were being forced to change religion. He was martyred in 1675. 30 years later his wife and grandchildren also sacrificed themselves including, Sahibzada (Prince) Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh. The two boys aged just 6 and 9 upheld their values to stand up against discrimination and betrayal. Instead of denouncing their Sikh faith they faced martyrdom and were stoned to death in late December 1705 by Wazir Khan, a Mughal Governor who had captured them after betraying their father Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Some Sikhs will avoid all festivities as they embark on a period of remembrance of a difficult period of Sikh history. This can be tricky for young Sikhs to understand amidst external festivities, but with knowledge comes power and many Sikh children are nurtured to understand the reasons why Sikhs choose a more subdued approach in December.
As our lives get busier family time is precious and regardless of their sentiments towards festivities many Sikh families will choose to get together at Christmas as they have time off work. Some families stick to Panjabi food and conversation. Other families go all in with presents under the tree, Christmas dinner, the Queen’s speech and crackers.
Some families don’t give gifts at Christmas and may instead give gifts to their children on the birth day of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, to support their children’s understanding of Sikh history. Some families may even give gifts on both occasions! An important correlation between Sikhs and Christmas is the big focus to remember the needy, and many Sikhs join Christian and Sikh organisations in feeding the homeless and offering them shelter and warmth.
A key thing to remember is Christmas day marks a time of year where many are celebrating their religion. Just as Sikhs go out to do Nagar Kirtan’s at Vaisakhi to raise awareness of the occasion, Christians are doing Carol singing and celebrating with bright lights and Christmas trees. Embracing religions in a tolerant society of each other is key in breaking down barriers between communities.
Overall, whatever your sentiments of Sikhs celebrating Christmas it’s important to remember to respect the decisions of families around you. Everyone is different and choices and decisions are made as a reflection of our upbringing, experiences and personal values. For those celebrating, we wish you a very happy Christmas whilst we also take time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Sikh Guru’s and Princes.
Start the new year with a personalised Ardaas prayer. You can recite blessings for your family, yourself or to send to those you love. We’ll do your Ardaas for you, minimum contribution £5, thank you for allowing us to do your sewa.