Zahrah Nasir Reindeer, old fashioned lanterns, candles, snowmen, sleighs, Christmas trees resplendent with sparkly ornamentation, all seem to have suddenly erupted as seasonal motifs on children's clothing found in the bazaars this winter, along with ruddy cheeked, white bearded Father Christmas and his merry band of elves, characters loved and known in many countries but a bit of a puzzlement for youngsters here and, in rural areas, a mystery for their parents too. Christmas trimmings, right down to roast turkey with sage and onion stuffing with plum pudding to follow, have been traditionally enjoyed by the Christian community for many years now yet, surprisingly or maybe not as, according to 'informed sources' our world has been transformed into a 'global village', the fun and frivolity associated with December 25th, is fast becoming part and parcel of the 'moderate' Muslim world. Christmas festivities have, over the past 100 years, become quite an acceptable 'norm' in Muslim countries as diverse as Turkey and Egypt plus were popular in pre-revolutionary Iran where Muslims and Christians often celebrated together. Many years ago it was fairly uncommon for 'high street' stores here in Pakistan to 'deck their halls with boughs of holly', figuratively speaking of course as, unless it happens to be of the plastic variety, holly is not to be found but, over the past two decades, shopkeepers appear to have discovered that spraying a few cans of instant snow, liberally dashed with brightly coloured glitter and the odd string of festive lights winking on and off in a most alluring fashion, certainly helps to pull in the crowds and not all of them with children in tow either. Showmanship, no matter how basically alien, serves to grab everyone's attention - be they big spenders or, particularly in these increasingly hard times, small. Christmas trees, mostly glitzy imitation ones and thankfully not live pine trees which are desperately needed right where they are in the disappearing forests, are fashionably dressed to kill in the homes of an increasing number of 'upper' and 'middle' class Muslims whose children are subjected to a daily dose of 'western' television and movies in which, particularly towards the end of the year, Christmas and all that goes with it are regularly a part and, children being the same the world over, they 'expect' to enjoy the identical things themselves. Not wanting their offspring to feel deprived in any way, parents, particularly the 'must keep up with modern trends variety', naturally do everything in their power to acquiesce, the result being everything, sometimes more, that a Christian child could dream of with, in some cases, Muslim overtones. Whilst some elders and most mullahs find the adoption of what is basically a Christian festivity horrifying in the extreme, the more 'enlightened' see absolutely nothing wrong with this development as the Prophet whose birth is being remembered happens to be recognised by followers of Islam, as well as those of the Christian and Judaic faiths too. The practice of exchanging Christmas cards and presents between family members and friends has been rather slower to catch on than that of holding Christmas parties where children, plus adults, have a wonderful, fun filled time much as they do on Eid-ul-Fitr in their new clothes and, if female, bangles. Christmas events, as staged by Muslim families, are more likely to be held in Karachi than in Lahore and other major centres of population and, so far, are probably almost non-existent in rural areas but, one has to wonder if it would perhaps be a good thing to encourage this cross-religion celebration of 'peace and goodwill to all' as a way of softening the currently strengthening cross-cultural divides. The simple process of getting together to celebrate the historical birth of a Prophet held in esteem by so many people around the world, could assist in creating a wider understanding of, what are after all, basic human similarities and, hopefully, in the process help to spread far more tolerance of other people's beliefs than currently exists. Surely there is nothing wrong with spreading knowledge and understanding even if, initially, the 'outward' garb appears forebodingly alien in concept, as Christmas per se, is not about promoting or preaching Christianity although, true to say that some Christian men of the cloth do use the festival to do just this. Christmas is, when all of the profiteering that accompanies any festival anywhere in the world has been brushed aside, nothing more than a widely acknowledged birthday party to which most comers are welcome. As Christmas has been commercialised, very much so over the past century or so, its religiosity has actually been reduced to the merely symbolic for the majority of people participating in what, for them is now nothing more than a once a year 'bash' when bad things are put behind them, disputes banished, scattered families congregate to put matters right and, in doing so, regenerate and rejuvenate relationships, emerging to face the future anew. The 'global family' to which we all belong, could, quite possibly, do well by taking a leaf from this particular book. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.