Today marks the first day of December and the count down to Christmas festivities and the big day itself. Perhaps the most awaited and celebrated season in the social calender, December happens to be the most busiest month of the year for businesses and consumers alike.

With spirits lifted and smiles all round, little thought goes in to the forgotten souls who have no one to share these special moments with. For aslong as I can remember as a young child, coming from a Muslim background, we never celebrated Christmas in the traditional religious sense. But my mother would always make a special effort to invite our local neighbours around, those of whom lived alone or were of old age to come over for dinner. It never resembled the Christmas dinner’s I’d seen on TV as a child. There was no Christmas tree or presents or hanging socks, infact we had no chimney where Father Christmas could down from, my father got rid of all the chimneys in the early 80’s. Dinner was actually always a rice dish with some kind of spicy curry. A treat for those not accustomed to asian food. My neighbours would leave in high praise of my mother’s exotic cooking and often with a hint of heart burn due to the spices. A few would be perplexed at the missing turkey, roast potatoes and gravy bowl, but soon came around to my mother’s cooking when she would bring over her dish de resistance!

When I’d ask my mother why we didn’t celebrate Christmas, or have a tree and spend lots of money decorating the house like all the other people on our street, she would explain that Christmas wasn’t all about spending money. She’d say, have you seen how hard your father works? If we were to spend all his hard earned money all for one day and selfishly all on ourselves, then how would we be able to benefit those less fortunate than us in this world?

Confused by my mother’s answer at that age, today her words couldn’t be more true and relevent. We never had many worldly posessions or expensive goods in the house growing up. What little we did have, my parent’s always taught me the importance of sharing and helping those that were less fortunate than us. When I’d complain that I didn’t have the latest Nintendo or Sega Megadrive consoles, my father would sit me down and say, look son be greatful to God we have a roof over our head, there are people who don’t even have that.

Till this very day, I carry on the great work and legacy of my mother and father. Today, they are of the same age of those neighbours that once came to our home and I have reached the age of which once my parent’s were when I was a small child. As Muslims we strongly believe that giving charity never goes to waste, it is always multiplied and returned to you in kind. Today, we live a comfortable life, perhaps a gift for all the good deeds and hardwork my parent’s put in when they were young. Where once my parent’s helped my local neighbours by offering them food, warmth and a few hours of compassion and a longing chat. Today I’m able to continue their great work by helping thousands of people across the UK and abroad through my work with Unicef UK, Oxfam and many other humanitarian aid agencies.

So this Christmas remember the true spirit of Christmas is embellished not in lavish shopping sprees and showcased dinners but in the spirit of giving and caring.

May I wish you all a warm Christmas & Seasons Greetings!

 

Zeshan

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