Iman Jodeh’s father is a Palestinian born in Bethlehem. He immigrated to Chicago where he worked as an accountant for a meat-packing company. One year at a Christmas party, his coworkers asked him if his people celebrated the holiday. “We invented it,” he said.
The story of Jesus, and his birth, is a part of Islam, Jodeh told The Colorado Independent.
Muslims regard him as a messenger of God and the Messiah. The Koran mentions the prophet Muhammad fewer times than Jesus, features his mother Mary and refers to his virgin birth. Jesus, as the Koran tells it, was a great prophet — but prophets have no divine abilities, Jodeh said, and their births are not celebrated.
The biggest difference between the Islamic and Christian ideas of Jesus, said Jodeh: “We believe he ascended to heaven. We believe in the miracles such as the story of loaves and fishes,” but not the crucifixion or that he rose from the dead.
Most observant Muslims won’t say “Merry Christmas,” Jodeh said.
“We have to maintain the fact that Jesus was a prophet, not the son of God. Maintaining that separation in the language” is important, to make sure “we honor ourselves and our beliefs.”
In the United States, Muslims struggle most with the overemphasis on consumerism, shopping and material excesses, Jodeh said, though she loves a good Christmas sale as much as anyone.
As for Jodeh’s parents, they taught her to honor and respect the holiday without being a part of it.
In Palestine Muslims have a different attitude toward Christmas than others in the Islamic world. Afterall, Islam and Christianity have coexisted there for 1,400 years.
“We learn from early on to honor each other’s religious holidays,” she said.
Muslims in Palestine will say “Merry Christmas” and Christians return the honor during Ramadan, Islam’s highest holy days.
“It’s really more about honoring each other, and respecting each other and each other’s beliefs,” she said. “That’s the heart of Christmas and where it comes from.”