Can Muslims attend Christmas celebrations

The rituals of the Christmas season include a special kind of confession. Cem Özdemir, for example, the Green politician, child of Turkish guest workers, shows childhood photos on Twitter. The little Cem in front of a Christmas tree. He writes: "On these days I think of my father, who died last year, and of what he taught me: We are Muslims, our neighbors celebrate Christmas. So we celebrate Christmas too, of course with a real tree." Or the SPD politician Sawsan Chebli, daughter of Palestinian refugees. She recently wrote: She doesn't know "any Muslim" who would mind if someone wishes him a Merry Christmas.

On the other hand, the German author Sophie Passmann tweeted: "I found out today that Sawsan Chebli eats goose at Christmas and spends time with her family while I just drink a lot of gin and tonic and eat hummus." Well being exhibited here; flaunted indifference there: "Sawsan is more integrated than me."

When people who do not have a Christian family background develop a desire for Christmas, this is often a gauge of their feeling of security in this country. For many, something has actually grown in the past few decades, for both Muslims and Jews. Your social class has stabilized; the fear of losing one's own identity has diminished. The first guest workers often kept their distance. You can still hear today among the elderly that celebrating Christmas is "haram", un-Islamic. It was also common among Jews in post-war Germany to stay away. But it has changed, you have been able to experience it, even as a Jewish boy whose mother bought an Advent calendar so that he would not feel left out, or as a Turkish boy who was the only one who stayed in the school service when the others got up to to get hosts.

The more people take part in a ritual, the more it changes, says Aladin El-Mafaalani, a German sociologist who teaches in Münster. "I am quite sure that more and more migrants are celebrating Christmas." The effect is something like when you talk to original Cologne residents about Carnival: "You will report that more and more and more and more different people celebrate Carnival, and that has changed Carnival celebrations." Today the grandsons of the guest workers sometimes buy tinsel and balls. They went to school in Germany, grew up with the stories - and want to enable their children to feel less foreign.

Christmas is more welcoming than other Christian festivals

A hundred years ago, many German-speaking Jews demonstratively joined in the celebration. The chief rabbi of Vienna visited Theodor Herzl, the pioneer of Zionism, at home and found that he was lighting the candles on a Christmas tree. The feeling of having solid ground under your feet soon disappears. As small as the Jewish community is today, there is sometimes a worry of dissolving like sugar cubes in coffee. The Christmas trees have disappeared again.

Another form of customization is more common. The Jewish Channukka festival, which usually falls in December, does not actually play a major role in the religious calendar. Due to the close proximity to Christmas, however, it has grown in families, and the scent of candle wax and sweet pastries is now accompanied by the rustling of wrapping paper. Similarly in Muslim families: Many use New Year's Eve to give presents. In Turkish culture, the turn of the year is celebrated a little more glittering anyway. So it makes sense to take the chance right away so that the children can have a say after the holidays.

That the Germans are quite lax when it comes to rituals - Christmas goose or sausages with potato salad, church or TV evening - makes that easier. In addition, the birth of Christ is theologically more inviting than other celebrations. Easter is about an execution, a return from the dead and a question of guilt that has been charged with toxic anti-Judaism for centuries. Christmas is easier. It's about a baby. For non-Christians, who are allowed to watch as onlookers, it is about a starry night, a woman who is expecting her child. And about the happiness that comes to the poorest.

The result is what the sociologist El-Mafaalani calls the "integration paradox". In short: the more successful integration, the more conflicts you have to deal with. Encapsulated milieus have fewer communication difficulties with each other because their paths cross less often. That's how it used to be. At the company Christmas party, non-Christians only worked in the kitchen. Today they are sitting at the table.