Maspeth living room is transformed into a Thanksgiving
dining room that can seat visiting family. Tribune
photo By Brian M. Rafferty
Judeo-Christian Holidays Tacked On
By Liz Skalka
Muhammad Shafiq celebrates Christmas with his family, though it may seem like a stretch for a man of Muslim faith from Pakistan.
"In our religion it's not forbidden," he said. "We have no objections to it."
Shafiq and his family put their own spin on celebrating Christmas and even Thanksgiving.
Shafiq and his wife, Tahira, and their daughter, 7, and son, 8, will be enjoying a pre-ordered turkey this Thanksgiving at their home in Fresh Meadows. His family adopted the tradition, he said, because his children learned about it from their friends and in school. "They have a lot of friends," he said. "They want to go with their friends."
So this Thanksgiving Shafiq and his family will sit down to a turkey dinner after Shafiq gets off work. Shafiq generally has to work holidays, and works six and a half days a week, or about 78 hours. Last year, he worked about 84 hours a week.
"Everybody works a lot," he said. "They need a celebration to release tension."
Shafiq will also be working on Christmas, but plans to celebrate later on with his family. He chooses to work on the holiday because he gets a double salary plus a bonus.
For Christmas, Shafiq's wife organizes a party with their children's friends. "They want to celebrate with their friends," Shafiq said.
Tahira, who is a stay-at-home mom, prepares food and makes presents for the kids. They also make Christmas cards with the children's handprints.
Additionally, the family attends a holiday party thrown by Shafiq's boss. "I go with them. I like it," Shafiq said.
He added, "We're here. If we want to spend a good time we have to do everything with them, or else we can't enjoy life."
South Asian Tradition
With the many South Asians living in the borough, a mixture of Muslim and Hindu traditions ends up melding with American and Christian traditions.
Ishani Chowdhury, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, noted despite her religious background that, growing up in Brooklyn, her family still acknowledged Christmas.
"We learned about Christmas and had a small Christmas tree," she said, though she added, "It's purely more of the theme that it's time to learn about other festivals and cultures."
Even though her family put up a tree, Chowdhury said there's a line that isn't crossed in celebrating the holiday. For religious Hindus, it's celebrated as a secular day without the same meaning it has for Christians. "It's become more of a general secular holiday," Chowdhury noted.
There are also Muslim and Hindu holidays that happen from mid-fall to around New Years. For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, is celebrated Oct. 13. Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice commemorating the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is observed Dec. 20 and Muharram, the Islamic New Year, happens Jan. 10. All observances are in accordance with the lunar-based Islamic calendar.
Diwali, The Festival Of Lights
A major holiday in the Hindu faith is Diwali, the Festival of Lights. It is celebrated over four days falling around the time of mid-to-late October to early-November. The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil and celebrates the new year, said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society in Flushing. "Diwali is one of the biggest festivals," Mysorekar said.
Diwali is translated to mean a row of lights.
The Hindu Temple, Mysorekar said, is the largest Hindu temple in the tri-state area and though it doesn't have an official membership, considers itself to have more than 20,000 individuals who worship there.
In Queens, Diwali is celebrated at the temple through prayer services and the giving of sweets and gifts. "They have a lot of services and lots of offerings of sweets and savories," Mysorekar said, adding, "It's celebrated in the temple in somewhat of a religious way."
Mysorekar pointed out that even those who aren't Hindu participate in the holiday. "Non-Hindus have parties because it is just a joyous season and everyone has that good feeling," Mysorekar said.
In India, she said, the holiday is celebrated differently depending on the part of the country. Fireworks are generally set off in India for Diwali.
But in Queens, Chowdhury pointed out, "There is a very large number of Indian and Hindu Americans that live here."
Diwali and its traditions should be taught in schools here, she said, the same way Christmas and other religious holidays are taught.
"It's a time for family to come together," Chowdhury said. "It's equal to Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's a way to start the year off fresh together."
She added, "It's also a time for remembrance of the goodness that God has bestowed upon us."