Non-Christian students engage in holiday season at Baylor

Graphic illustration by Olivia Havre.

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

Baylor is known for its holiday-themed events like Christmas on Fifth, which caters to its majority-Christian population. However, students of non-Christian faiths on campus still enjoy partaking in the holiday season.

Katy senior Sanjana Natarajan practices Hinduism, but she said her favorite holiday is Christmas. For as long as she can remember, she and her family have celebrated the season like millions of others worldwide — with gifts, music and a family dinner.

Because her extended family does not come into town for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s just Natarajan, her two sisters and her parents.

“We like the festive spirit. We like the trees with the lights,” Natarajan said. “We do the presents and everything. We just like Christmas a lot.”

Natarajan said people typically are surprised when they learn that her family celebrates Christmas. She said some of her family friends who practice Hinduism also celebrate the Christmas season in the same way.

“For the most part, our religion is very accepting of other religions,” Natarajan said. “Nobody has ever really come at us for celebrating Christmas and not
being Christian.”

Fort Worth senior Nelley Sobh and her family are Muslim. She said she and her family celebrate the holiday because Islam acknowledges Jesus and because they enjoy the festive spirit.

“Muslims still believe in Jesus, and so we’re not opposed to celebrating a ‘Hallmark Christmas,’” Sobh said. “I think a majority of Muslim Americans in our age group participate in the holiday’s social events. Christmas on Fifth is always a fun thing as well as the tree lighting.”

Sobh said Muslim businesses in Egypt also decorate their stores for Christmas, so the blending of the religions is not foreign to her. Sobh said that in America, Christmas is oftentimes seen as a “default holiday” that has been separated from its religious roots, so people aren’t always surprised to hear she and her family celebrate. By that same token, the ubiquity of Christmastime can
be isolating.

“Sometimes people don’t associate Christmas with faith,” Sobh said. “People often think, ‘Why wouldn’t you celebrate Christmas? Why wouldn’t you get a Christmas present?’ I feel like it can isolate people who don’t celebrate Christmas, especially people of the Jewish faith or
non-Abrahamic faiths.”

Sobh said she felt isolation seeing Nativity scenes and experiencing the religious aspects of the holiday, having grown up celebrating without
faith involved.

Despite that, Sobh said the holidays are a special time for her and her family.

“The holidays are one of my favorite times of year,” Sobh said. “Me and my whole family, we just love the lights and the whole concept of Christmas.”