By Samantha Gillis
On a bitter cold Dec. 25, venturing through a world of lions, walruses and iguanas doesn’t seem typical, but for Stacy Townsley, registrar, going to the zoo is how she has spent Christmas before.
“Since we have the day off, we like to enjoy it,” said Townsley. She practices the Baha’i Faith which means Dec. isn’t a rush for presents and decorating the tree. However, she still participates in the month’s festivities. “December is a time for reflecting and being thankful for family,” she said.
“Who doesn’t enjoy the festiveness?” said Townsley.
It may be an odd concept for other religions to enjoy a Christian religion, but Saeed Yazdani, associate professor of business, said, “It’s not strange for Muslims to visit Christian friends and celebrate. Even in Pakistan I did that. My wife actually just asked me to put some lights up on the outside of the house,” he said. Yazdani practices the Islamic faith.
Muslims have a special feeling about Christmas, because Jesus’ name is mentioned more than the prophet Mohammed’s in the Koran, said Yazdani. “It is because there is not a single miracle attached to Mohammed. He never created any miracles. But Jesus created many miracles in the Koran,” he said. “So we have a complete understanding of the caliber of importance this day has.”
The Baha’i Faith also identifies with the meaning of the season. “It’s about being open minded to other religions,” said Townsley.
In the Baha’i faith there are three basic principles—there is one god, all the religions come from the same god, and we are one people and we should recognize that unity.
This is why she doesn’t remove her children from class during holiday parties in school. “It’s a little awkward in the school system during the holiday season. Even though the schools are secular, there are still holiday parties,” said Townsley. “But our faith believes in fellowship with all and diversity, so it teaches our children to bond and unite with their classmates.”
At the same token, Townsley thinks it would be more inclusive for signs to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. Yazdani on the other hand isn’t bothered by either.
“There is nothing wrong with saying Merry Christmas to your Christian friends,” said Yazdani.
Yazdani distinguishes that not all Muslims agree with him about Christmas. “I think there are always extremist, conservative people in any religion, but this is a time to recognize the birth of Jesus, he said. “It just depends largely on other people’s educational background, about how accepting, and open to other religions they are.”
Townsley wants everyone to observe the holiday season with an understanding mind set. “It would behoove everyone to recognize the diversity, and not know that everyone shares the same faith, be accepting. I have never encountered anyone in the work place or any friends who view life through an enclosed environment. They have all been very accepting,” said Townsley.
Samantha Gillis is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.