Belfast Telegraph

Cultures in Christmas celebration

By Sarah Brett sbrett@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

GOODWILL to all men is an admirable Christmas sentiment regardless of religion - and it is one upheld by members of Derry's Sikh, Baha'i and Morman faiths.

GOODWILL to all men is an admirable Christmas sentiment regardless of religion - and it is one upheld by members of Derry's Sikh, Baha'i and Morman faiths.

Paramgit Sandhu is a Sikh and has lived in Derry for nearly 20 years, where she and her family mark Christmas together with a traditional lunch, presents for the kids and a few carols.

"There is no way I would expect the children to go without presents," says Paramgit. "We have lived here a long time and celebrate Christmas just the same as Christians do, there is no clash with our religion.

"My daughter is learning Punjabi and is very knowledgeable about Sikhism. But she also sings Christmas Carols in the school choir.

"We have many celebrations in our religion, most recently the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism.

"We have 10 gurus so we mark each of their birthdays."

Dr Keith Munroe is a member of the Baha'i council.

He has been in the faith for 36 years and says that while the Baha'i do not officially mark Christmas, they respect the founders of all world religions.

"I was reared as a Christian in Belfast in the 50's and 60's so I'm used to the concept of Christmas.

"All founders of world faiths are equal in the eyes of the Baha'i.

"I believe in Mohammed and Jesus as well as our founder Bahá'u'lláh, whose birthday we celebrate on November 12.

"We have nine holy days during the year and like the Christian faith, some are sombre and some are for celebration.

"Christmas is abused these days. In the 21st century it has very little to do with the birth of Christ - it's more like the decadent Roman feast of Saturnalia."

Local Mormons from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Racecourse Road echoed Dr Munroe's thoughts.

Twenty-one-year-old Elder Larson from Utica in the United States, commented: "We celebrate Christmas with presents the same as everybody else.

"But we look at the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus' birthday.

"Christmas brings people close together and brings out the best in them. It would be good if we could extend that all year round."

Elder Blakemore, originally from West Sussex said: "I think personally it is a shame the way Jesus isn't really the focus.

"I think people need to get it totally in perspective.

"Sometimes Jesus gets lost in all the celebrations."

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