A Very Muslim Christmas: Gift Giving Traditions and My Savings Secret

This working mom recalls her immigrant family's first Muslim Christmas in the US as a child, plus she shares her secret for finding Christmas gift deals.

The season of gift giving is upon us. Every year, I tell myself to start buying gifts in the summer so I don’t have to worry about it on top of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Cooking for potlucks, going to and planning get-togethers, sending out cards, and having kids on school break are enough to throw me out of my hard-to-achieve balance.

However, that’s still one of the goals I set and forget a couple of weeks into January. When mid-November hits, way sooner than I expect, I use Slickdeals to get the best deals for the items I am looking for.

But before I tell you how Slickdeals helps me save on holiday gifts, let me give you a little background on why I even worry about getting gifts for Christmas—a holiday I wasn’t introduced to until I came to the United States in 1997.

Being Muslim in a Christian-majority country

I am originally from Tajikistan, a Muslim-majority country in Central Asia among all the other “istan”-ending countries. Yes, it is right north of Afghanistan, although I usually prefer to leave it at west of China.

Although growing up in a Muslim-majority country, we weren’t very religious because Tajikistan was part of the USSR. As many of you know, USSR enforced atheism on the members of the Communist Party, which half of Tajik people belonged to. Frankly, the other half were the family members of the first half. Religion didn’t have a place for my grandparents and parents’ generations. As a result, my family didn’t have any moral concerns over celebrating a Christian holiday.

Filling the social void

If I had one word to describe the people of Tajikistan, I would say “hospitality.” They look for reasons to invite each other over, cook, eat, drink, talk, dance, and eat again. People grow up in close proximity to their extended family, classmates are grouped together from first grade all the way to 11th (no 12th grade), and coworkers are part of each others’ families. As a result, in addition to all the holidays, people attend countless birthday parties, weddings, and dinner parties.

A few months after we came to the U.S. for good, feeling the deep hollow space our social lives used to fill, we were open for any reason to celebrate. Between the Christmas music on radio channels, Christmas lights, Christmas decorations in departments stores, and everything else Christmas-y, it was hard to miss how important celebrating Christmas was here.

Fitting in

Adopting the celebration of Christmas was a way for us to adapt to our new culture. It’s human nature to pick up acts and habits in order to fit in. This concept is not limited to high school kids. Even adults do it—especially immigrants.

Russel Peter, a child of Indian immigrants and a comedian my husband and I like to watch, spoke about how his father tried to be more Canadian by inviting his neighbors to a picnic where he grilled hot dogs (or as he pronounced it “hawdawgs”) for the first time in his life—although it was a taste he still could not get used to.

Our first Muslim Christmas

My family consisted of my parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, and myself. We got presents for each other, fascinated by the beauty of ever-colorful wrapping paper, perfectly shaped boxes under a tree filled with glittering, bejeweled ornaments. It was unreal. We were becoming Americans.

We opened presents and carefully folded the beautiful wrapping paper to the side. The next year, we still had the folded wrapping paper, and tearing beautiful prints of the new presents shattered our hearts. We soon learned what a big mess that made and picked up as soon as a present was opened.

One present at a time

Opening presents was the main event of the day for us and it took the most time to prepare for, but we soon realized how disappointing it was when everyone opened their presents in one chaotic moment and it was over. Done. So my father designated me, the youngest member of the family, to open one present at a time while everybody else sat around me watching. Lack of fun for the rest of the family was a concern even then, but it was our solution to stretch out the fun of opening presents.

Soon, this family of six turned into seven with my nephew, then my other brother got married, then the oldest had a second child, then the older brother had his first child, then my uncle came with his family, then cousin came, then I got married, then another nephew. We grew and grew and grew. When we were at 20 members, we decided to only get presents for the children, my parents, and grandmother. Everyone opened their own presents, but we still enforced the one present at a time rule. This way, we could see what everyone got.

Now, our family has grown to 35 people. And getting gifts for all the children has been a challenge. We realized as our kids grew, they became pickier and pickier to the point where small gifts end up piling up in the corner the next week. This year we decided to draw names. I have three kids, and will draw three names. Now, we are only getting a few gifts with higher price tags.

Ever wondered how non-Christian families feel at Christmas time in the US? Find out how one Muslim American family began adopting the holiday as part of their cultural transition—plus learn this mom's secret to saving major bucks on holiday gifts!

Slickdeals website

This is where Slickdeals Deal Alerts come in. If you haven’t discovered Slickdeals, you should go now. It’s a social commerce website featuring crowd-sourced deals and coupons. It has thousands of active participants. There are multiple pages and different levels of participation opportunities. The Front Page only includes deals that earned high enough “upvotes” or validations by the website visitors.

There are also popular deals which haven’t yet gotten to the Front Page, but are still pretty good deals. You can use the search box to look for anything specific without having to scroll through all the deals.

By the way, they already have Black Friday ads posted so you can plan ahead.

Slickdeals Deal Alerts

I highly recommend the Deal Alert in the Slickdeals website. This is where you can specify which stores or products you are interested in and have Slickdeals send you an alert when deals come up for those stores or items.
I highly recommend the Deal Alert in the Slickdeals website. This is where you can specify which stores or products you are interested in and have Slickdeals send you an alert when deals come up for those stores or items.

My husband got me started on the website. Being a tech lover, he uses Slickdeals to seek good deals for expensive electronic gadgets. All of our tech products have been purchased through Slickdeals deals.

I am to a point where I visit the website before I make any purchases (except groceries and small things). There are so many coupons out there, why not take advantage? Please note, I do not have any affiliation with Slickdeals. It is a tool I find useful and I would like to extend it to other deal-seeking moms.

Enjoy the season of gift-giving and deal-seeking, moms, but stick to the shopping list. It gets exciting to see all the good deals in one place, but do remember that if there is a deal now, most likely there will be another soon enough. The whole purpose of seeking deals, which I often forget, is to buy what you were going to buy anyway (deal or no deal) for less.

Which tools do you use to find deals?

5 thoughts on “A Very Muslim Christmas: Gift Giving Traditions and My Savings Secret

  1. Thank you so much for this perspective – and for the tips. I love your story about adopting Christmas traditions as an immigrant family – how it helped you find a sense of belonging, and I think it’s so important, especially at this time. So glad you’re with us at WMAG!

  2. Really enjoyed reading this and learning about the Christmas traditions in your family, from a perspective that I have never considered. I think these are some of the best aspects of Christmas – the traditions, the season of giving and the magic of Christmas that comes with all of it. While I am Christian, I’m not very religious nor is most of my family so those are the main aspects of Christmas celebrated in my family too and I believe many families across America. And I’ll have to check out SIckdeals now. 🙂

  3. Hi there – this is a wonderful article. I came across it searching for culturally appropriate year end gifts for a Muslim person. Our daycare workers are Muslim from a USSR related country like yours, and while I understand they are okay with the Christmas celebration, I do want to give them something that is appropriate to their beliefs. I think they said they celebrate new years, but not sure if it’s the typical new years or something else. Any thoughts? (I hope you still read these comments).

    1. Hello Marci! You know… growing up, we used to get a plastic treat bag filled with goodies! Some candy, some fruit, some biscuits. Your comment made me think of those treats and I had a moment of nostalgia. Yes, back in Russia, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest celebrations. The concept of gift-giving for New Year’s Eve is not major, however. It’s more about celebration, family, unity, and excitement for the coming year. I am sure this person will be very happy with whatever she gets and if you want to reference something to her culture, consider this: in our culture, there is a concept of how you spend the New Year’s Eve is how the coming year will be. So let’s say if you get her sweets, you can say, ‘I got you this for New Year’s hoping that the coming year will be as sweet as this.’ Just an idea.

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