Bondowoso / Cultural Observations / Culture / Daily Life / Indonesia / Peace Corps / People / Teaching

Cultural Observations, #3: Muslim Kids Believe in Santa

Warning: Do not read this if you want to keep the Santa dream alive.

Blame it on globalization and too much Western television, but apparently, Muslim kids believe in Santa Claus. When I visited my host family in Malang, my 5-year old host niece and her posse overheard me talking about going home for Christmas. After my host sister left to attend to her baby, she scrambled over with her friends and started asking me forceful questions about Santa. Santa wears red? she asked in a tone that sounded like an accusation. He goes down the chimney, right? piped in the other kid. And he brings presents! screamed the last tyke.

I didn’t want them to get the wrong idea, so I gently said, You know it’s just a story, right? Parents are the real Santa. Immediately their faces fell, and they looked at me like I had killed their dream.

Just look at the face of the kid on the right!

After this incident, I asked an adult Muslim teacher what she thought about Santa. I think he’s an angel, she said. What is he, bu Mel? she continued. Uhhh, here we go again. I told her Santa was a legend based on a Saint and she, too, looked disappointed. (What’s is the deal? Is Santa secretly coming to Indonesia?) But I like her idea. Thinking of Santa as an angel – very important figures in Muslim religion – sounds lovely to me.

What started with me trying to do a good thing ended up with me feeling like the Grinch.

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