ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ॥ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫ਼ਤਹਿ ॥
We hope you survived Michaelmas and are enjoying a well-deserved break. A reminder that you can find the link to the weekly zoom Rehraas Sahib on our Facebook chat. We are also changing the format of the newsletter away from the Sikh monthly calendar to exploring different topics from a Sikh perspective.
The countdown to Christmas is well underway, from advent calendars to Christmas adverts. One couldn’t escape Christmas even if they tried. The pervasiveness is precisely why we thought it would be interesting to examine the relationship between Sikhi and Christmas.
I can’t bring up any lines from Bani (scripture) to say you should or shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, so this is ultimately an opinion. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way.
On one hand, we can see why Sikhs celebrating Christmas is unproblematic. Firstly, that Christmas is not actually a very Christian holiday. This is true. The origins of Christmas lie in paganism and the winter solstice. In fact, it is very likely, that Jesus was born in the summer months. Therefore, Christmas in December is ahistorical. Christmas doesn’t only have pagan roots but was also hijacked by capitalism long ago. As a result, Christmas is a rather secular holiday. This explains why some Christians, such as seventh day Adventists, don’t celebrate Christmas. So this begs the question as to why Sikhs shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. Christmas simply can be an opportunity for families to get together, have a meal and spend quality time with each other.
However, for other Sikhs, Christmas deserves a bit more scrutiny simply because it falls in December. In the Sikh calendar, the month of December is one of remembrance. In December, we remember the Shaheedi (martyrdom) of the Chaar Sahibzade (Four sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji). As well as the loss of Mata Gurji Ji (Guru Ji’s mother) and the loss of other Shaheed Singhs. Some of you may remember the Chaar Sahibzade movie from several years ago, which told this very story. Anecdotally, I saw many people from all backgrounds in Sikhi become emotional over the contents of the movie. However, this is not reflected in our attitude to remembering the event in December. In a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, we may celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day unaware that Guru Ji lost his four sons and his mother around this time. So, Christmas, unlike Easter, Thanksgiving or Halloween, falls at a time of great sacrifice. This is not to say that we should remain sombre for the whole month. As Sikhi accepts death as inevitable:
ਜੋ ਆਇਆ ਸੋ ਚਲਸੀ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਆਈ ਵਾਰੀਐ ॥
Jo aaiaa so chalasee sabh koiee aaiee vaareeaai ||
Whoever has come, shall depart; all shall have their turn.
(Ang 928, SGGSJ)
For those of higher spirituality, Shaheeds falling into this category, the following verse is applicable:
ਕਬੀਰ ਸੰਤ ਮੂਏ ਕਿਆ ਰੋਈਐ ਜੋ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਜਾਇ ॥
Kabeer sa(n)t mooe kiaa roieeaai jo apune gireh jai ||
Kabeer, why cry at the death of a Saint? He is just going back to his home
(Ang 1365, SGGSJ)
In this case, we don’t need to be sombre for the whole of December. Even Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s own attitude towards his sons’ death was that he had countless children in the form of the Khalsa.
Ultimately, I can’t tell you whether you should or should not celebrate Christmas. But Christmas is a time in which all of us are able to press the pause button on life. When reflecting on the sacrifices made by Sikhs in December, we can choose to celebrate them, as death and birth are treated the same in Sikhi. More broadly, we can use the holidays as an opportunity to spend time with family, do Seva and give to charity.
Is Christmas a Good idea for Sikhs (https://www.learnreligions.com/is-christmas-good-idea-for-sikhs-2993317)
New York born Sikhs take on celebrating Christmas (https://www.sikhnet.com/news/new-york-born-sikh-takes-celebrating-christmas)
Sikh Christmas in the Bible Belt (https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2021/12/22/Sikh-Christmas-Bible-Belt/)