As for celebrating Christmas, I'd say why not! We usually get a small tree and put some lights and simple decorations on it and buy only one gift for our daughter. We don't concentrate on the religious part of the holiday, she wouldn't understand it anyway. All she wants are those lights on the tree and telling her friends that Santa did come to her house, too!
We emphasize heavily on Norooz though, and that is one of my child's favorite family traditions. As I have seen it happened to other kids around me, I believe that if we emphasize on our own traditions and acknowledge the American holidays, these kids will grow up respecting and recognizing the Iranian traditions as their main family traditions. Just get them involved and make it fun for them!
Children are so pure that they are like mirrors and tend to reflect everything. In this light we all try to insure what they reflect is in line with our insights.
Parents should try to povide a Farsi learning environment for their kids and speak Farsi to them. If they answer back in English, this is acceptable since it is their first nature. My experience with my relatives tells me speaking and teaching Farsi to kids can only be very effective if they are also included in Iranian and family gatherings.
Regarding Christmas, our teaching to our children should be of a dynamic nature. First we should have a system of belief system. Most of Iranians believe in the soul of Islam and are enlighten spiritually eventhough they might not be orthodox Muslim in the literal meaning of it. This level of enlightment in us should be and will be transffered to our children. In this venue, what is merrier than celebrating what is called birthday of one of the so called most enlighten individual persons in history? And if we are a practicing Muslim, believing in prophethood is one of the pillars of Islam and therefore celebrating his birthday is not out of line. Second, as the kids start their intellectual development the commercialization of this holy event should be noted to our children in a wise and serene manner and emphasied on yearly basis.
I read your email and I actually enjoyed many part of it, since I am mother with two children in this country.
1) Regarding the Farsi teaching, since I have worked most of the time and my children were in day care. It was very difficult to have them talk in Farsi. But, now that my sons are 13 and 11, and they try to talk in Farsi and if I put an English word in my talks, they correct me. I really feel we as a parent are responsible to teach our children and show them the right path. As it is mentioned in Quran many of our messenger have done the same thing on religious aspect:
[al-Baqarah 2:132] Moreover, Abraham exhorted his children to do the same, and so did Jacob: "O my children, GOD has pointed out the religion for you; do not die except as submitters."
[al-Baqarah 2:133] Had you witnessed Jacob on his death bed; he said to his children, "What will you worship after I die?" They said, "We will worship your god; the god of your fathers Abraham, Ismail, and Isaac; the one god. To Him we are submitters."
2) regarding Christmas, I actually approach it with my children in very dynamic way too. When they were very small, I put small Christmas tree in their room with light. When they were a little older, they were constantly asking for bigger tree and I got bigger tree, but I did not put the angle on the tree. When they asked why. When they got to a point that they understand more, I explained that we are Muslim and we should not do it. I even mentioned, if they want gift, I will buy it for them, no matter, if there is a tree or not. Finally, I started to stand on my opinion and I mentioned that we should not do it. I asked them a question as if other religion will celebrate our new year. I think this question put them into thinking and they did not ask for it anymore. I have to explain that this was my approach. I also made sure that they understand about our new year activity and they love it. Especially, when I give them new Quran from the Quran.
3) Regarding your question about our prophet hood. I have a different approach. I have been trying to have their focus on GOD Alone. We actually talk about how nice it is to be a good submitter and We appreciate all our messenger on what they have done in this path. I think this is new era. We need to focus on the message which has been given to us. You may say that this will change my way of thinking. But, believe me, we as a human being will change the practice. We need to purify our practice.
[al-A`raf 7:70.11] They said, "Did you come to make us worship GOD alone, and abandon what our parents used to worship?
If you go through all the Quran, God has constantly mentioned that WE should worship him alone and follow our messenger, which means have our practice like them and listen to their teaching which came from GOD ALONE.
[Al-Imran 3:51.12] "GOD is my Lord and your Lord; you shall worship Him alone. This is the right path."
[al-An`am 6:102.19] Such is GOD your Lord, there is no god except He, the Creator of all things. You shall worship Him alone. He is in control of all things.
[Maryam 19:36.15] He also proclaimed, "GOD is my Lord and your Lord; you shall worship Him alone. This is the right path."
[al-Anbiya' 21:25.21] We did not send any messenger before you except with the inspiration: "There is no god except Me; you shall worship Me alone."
And, to close this part of my conversion:
[al-An`am 6:162.19] Say, "My Contact Prayers (Salat), my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted absolutely to GOD alone, the Lord of the universe.
4) And lastly, regarding your last comment, I have been a Muslim all my life, but I have never gotten the proper religious teaching from my family. Yes, we always talked about GOD, I did fast. I did my pray usually. But, after I started to really devote my religion to GOD alone and reading Quran more frequently, I prefer to have my practice more on what is in Quran. What I mean is, I constantly talked with my kids on how the religious teaching is in Quran and what are the most important thing and how they should be a good Muslim. Yes, if it comes up, I definitely tell them about the days, but I will have their focus completely on GOD.
[an-Nahl 16:52.21] To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth and therefore, the religion shall be devoted absolutely to Him alone. Would you worship other than GOD?
I hope I did not give a headache and thanks for your time;
I am a preschool teacher who has a Farsi speaking child in my class.....
I believe children should be taught to respect their heritage and should learn the ways of their culture. I am English speaking only...I believe people who speak different languages should teach their children the language of both their own and the country they live in. I see it is very hard for the Farsi speaking child to understand what is wanted or expected of him in my class when he does not understand what I am saying to him. He gets very frustrated, understandably so, when I cannot understand what he is saying to me also. I regret never learning a second or third language myself.
Regarding religion, I believe parents should teach their children what the parents believe in and that there are many beliefs in the world Forcing a child to be without any beliefs because the parents are afraid of making a child believe something they may disagree with later is as wrong as not feeding that child because he may not like what you prepared someday!!!
I wish the best for each family that is in a foreign country and hope you each can learn to love yourself and each other no matter what the differences may be.