Growing up, Firoozeh read How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. It occurred to her that the Grinch didn’t like celebrating Christmas because he was a Muslim. As a small child in Iran, Firoozeh’s society was almost entirely Muslim, although Christians and Jews lived there, too. Most of the population was secular Muslim, meaning that people thought of Islam as “donating a part of their income to the poor and not eating ham.” Women didn’t cover themselves in a chador, and many of them dressed in a Western style.
Firoozeh’s memoir was published in an era when Muslims were often depicted as violent religious extremists in American media (as is still sometimes the case today, unfortunately). Partly in response to these portrayals, Firoozeh stresses the moderate, secularized nature of Muslim society in Iran before the Iranian Revolution.
In the U.S., Firoozeh loves going to school. However, she feels left out when the other students participate in Christmas activities. The biggest holiday in Iran, at least while Firoozeh was a child, is Nowruz. This secular holiday, the New Year’s Day, is celebrated nationwide, and the entire country spends weeks preparing for it. In America, Firoozeh and her family still celebrate Nowruz, but it’s no longer so exciting. Firoozeh commiserates with her Jewish friends about being left out of Christmas. On Christmas, Firoozeh and her family watch the Bob Hope TV specials, and Firoozeh translates Bob Hope’s jokes for Nazireh.
During her time in the United States, Firoozeh and her family develop many new traditions: instead of placing so much emphasis on traditional Iranian holidays, they begin to celebrate more common American holidays, such as Christmas (and Thanksgiving, as we learned in an earlier chapter).
Later on, Firoozeh marries François, a Catholic, and becomes “a card-carrying member of the Christmas Club.” She loves celebrating Christmas: decorating the tree with her children and baking Christmas cookies. But sometimes, she finds Christmas exhausting—far more exhausting that Nowruz—and yearns for the simple days when Christmas just meant watching Bob Hope on TV.
It’s interesting that Firoozeh isn’t nostalgic for her childhood celebrating Nowruz in Iran, but rather her adolescence, when neither Nowruz nor Christmas was the defining part of her identity. Put another way, Firoozeh seems to be nostalgic for the “in-between” period of her life, when she felt like she belonged to both America and Iran.