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By Sarah Elmusrati

Miloud, the celebration of the birth of the prophet Mohammed, is theoretically the Muslim world's equivalent to Christmas. Theoretically? More literally nowadays. Walking into a Miloud market on Saturday sparked my 3 year old to ask where Santa Claus was and to start singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs. This was not exactly what I expected to achieve from this outing.  Rather than teaching her some new things about our culture, I have managed to confuse her even further. Especially after trying to convince her just two months ago that we won't partake in Christmas like her little friends at nursery do.

You see, traditionally Miloud is celebrated over two days. Tonight,  Miloud's eve, or Mawsim as it is typically known, is a night of lights: lanterns, candles, torches, fireworks; chanting, singing and praying. The little one's dress in their best and are given toys and candy. On Miloud day, a traditional barley porridge, aseeda, served with date syrup and olive oil, or honey and butter, is made for breakfast.

It used to be that on Miloud's eve, a man redeclared his love, much like (some) men do on Valentine's day. He would send a kh’maysa, the hand of Fatima, set atop a huge candelabra, to his bride-to-be to protect her from all things evil. The kh'amysa, in forward thinking 2011, seems to have been replaced by tacky plastic multi-coloured Christmas trees, hence the scene my daughter caused at the market yesterday. Yes, of all things, stall vendors were offering trees with hanging ornaments that wished everyone a "Merry Christmas". Tinsel and fairy lights. I even saw a few wreaths. And toys, stacks and stacks of toys. Not a kh’maysa in sight. All that was missing was Santa Claus - a good observation on my little one's part!

Believe me I'm all for cultural exchange, the way my life has unfolded is statement to that. But losing one's identity during the process is just not right.

Happy Miloud and Valentine's day.




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Sunday 13th February 2011