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Sonali Kolhatkar – I Wish You a Merry Christmas—Even Though I’m a Nonbeliever

I’ve been celebrating Christmas for as long as I can remember. As a child, I believed in Santa Claus and was rewarded every December for that temporary faith with a varied, if modest, set of gifts. But I am not a Christian, although my mother was born a Catholic.

During Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, I often decorated the threshold of my house with fine, glittering powdery “rangoli” in deep colors. My mother lit oil lamps and made an array of cardamom-laced sweets. But I am not Hindu, although my father’s extended family is considered Brahmin.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, my family respected the Islamic practice of daytime fasting by never eating or drinking outdoors while the sun was up. And at the end of the month, we celebrated Eid al-Fitr with our Muslim friends, feasting on stuffed goat and filling our pockets with foil-wrapped chocolates. But I am not a Muslim, although I was born and raised in a devoutly Islamic nation, the United Arab Emirates.

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