OMG! It All Means The Same Thing

If Aliens were to drop in on Australia right now they could be forgiven for believing that Australia is full of radical Christians. With bows on trees, Christmas music everywhere, puddings steamed on stoves, and presents wrapped with bows, I feel engulfed by the Christmas spirit. I have been wished a Merry Christmas by complete strangers as I’ve held open doors, walked through supermarket  check-outs, and paid for city car parking.

If I was to revisit the past six countries that I have called home, four are considered to be predominately muslim. I have stood in supermarkets watching shopping trolleys loaded with food and holiday stress make their way out the door. I’ve wished random strangers an Ed Mubarak or Happy Ramadan. G and I have been invited to share in the breaking of the fast with friends and work colleagues, and I’ve seen the true beauty of ramadan while sitting in an airport in Libya as families sat on the floor and invited others less fortunate than themselves to join them to eat for Iftar.

Our referral to God in Australia is flippant and overused. I send texts with a capital OMG and if I’m starting to panic I can let out a continual stream of “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod!” Sometimes I drawl an exasperated Oh My Gawd at the state of a child’s bedroom or a looming deadline for a piece of work. In a couple of my homes I have had to remember to throw in the occasional Inshallah or Insh’Allah at the end of a request of statement because ‘God Willing’ it will happen – a visit from the telephone company “Inshallah”, the required visa for our passport “Inshallah”, or the arrival of the mail “Inshallah”. After we’d got through a particularly sticky situation when first moving to Libya with the help of our friend Abdul Basit, G murmured a “thank god for that” when it was all over. Abdul replied “yes, alhamdulilah” – when we raised an eyebrow in question he smiled “Same thing, praise be to god, thank god for that, alhamdulilah”.

As a family we will not enter a church this Christmas, it’s not a statement of belief it is a choice of format. Christmas Eve will be spent at my parents, the little travellers will decorate Granny and Gramps tree and I will quietly mutter an alhamdulilah that my mother woke up from her hip replacement and got on with the business of getting stronger each day. Christmas Day will be a Rice family affair, we’ll be switching things up – a lunch at the golf club, a swim at the pool, some more backyard cricket (courtesy of the golf club) and hopefully the most relaxed Christmas Day yet without dishes to worry about and food to be cooked.

Last night as G and I sat up late with a glass of wine, a roll or wrapping paper, and dispenser of tape, I berated him for putting two l’s in my sister’s solo l name – he smirked “nothing like a bit of Christmas anxiety”. I’d once again spent the day getting sucked in to my usual last minute Christmas questions “Is it even? Has one family member more than the other? Should I just quickly get one more thing?” I thought about girlfriends in Qatar who talked about the pressure of Ramadan: the constant visiting, the overload of food, the busyness of traditions that perhaps hadn’t factored in two working parents.

It doesn’t matter which religion, which culture, which prophet. It’s the same: family, togetherness, an eagerness to be with those we love, a time to reflect after the initial madness of getting together.

And with that I wish you all of the salutations, because as Abdul Basit pointed out – they’re all the same, they mean the same things.

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