By Nazia “Zinnia” Khan, Contributing Writer
Many holidays are not observed in Islam, but the few that we have, we celebrate to the fullest. Islamic New Year began Oct. 15, also known as Muharram. The Islamic calendar is lunar based. No specific time of year exists when these holidays are celebrated. The date changes every year by about 10 days. Two major holidays are known as Eid-ul-Fitr (July 19) and Eid-ul-Adha (Sept. 23-24). The first, Eid-ul-Fitr, is observed at the end of the month of Ramadan, a time for reflection and cleansing of your mind, body and soul. Ramadan is the month when Muslims around the world keep a daily fast during daylight hours (dawn ‘til dusk) where they refrain from food, water and any sexual activity.
For me, this month really has a special feeling, like the ‘holidays’ as we know in mainstream American culture. My family rises before dawn to have our pre-dawn meal, suhoor, and again at the end of the day to break our fast at iftaar. Each culture has different foods that are associated with these meals, and my Pakistani family likes to enjoy pakoras, samosas, fruit salad and other ethnic foods.
I love the unity that fasting brings to our community. Knowing that other Muslims are fasting and experiencing the same thing throughout the day as I am gives me comfort in knowing that I am not alone.
When I was younger, I looked forward to all the special treats my mom made during our meals. Now that I have my own children, I wanted these times to be more than just food. As my son, Firasat, gets older (he’s now six years old), we add a new activity to make this month special, creating an excitement similar to what he feels around Christmas time. We decorate our home with Eid decorations, twinkle lights, streamers and balloons, like a big party. And this year, we added an advent calendar, which he really enjoyed.
The countdown to the end of the month builds the momentum for Eid-ul-Fitr, making it a very special time. The day is started with a special prayer held in observance of Eid and then followed by visiting with our family and friends. One tradition I’ve noted that has changed over time is the exchanging of gifts. Traditionally, Eid is a time for gift giving, mainly in the monetary form. When I was younger, we used to collect all the Eidee we would get from our elders and see who got the most. Throughout the years, our elders still give us money, but our younger generation has started giving gifts, small or large to each other and to our children. This tradition may be easier for them to relate to because of the exposure to American culture regularly. Either way, the days are still festive, and we enjoy these times very much.
Unlike Eid-ul-Fitr, there is less momentum around Eid-ul-Adha because the holiday is more calculated. We know when it is coming based on the calendar, since it marks the end of Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to. To me, this holiday has always been the more serious one, the one I never really understood as a child.
Traditionally, for this Eid, Muslims will perform an animal sacrifice in which the meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one-third of the share while another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors, and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy. Each culture and country has its rules around these sacrifices. For my family, we call our local butcher shop–where we get our zabiha meat from–and place our order. When the order is ready, we pick up the meat and distribute it accordingly. Getting my kids interested in this holiday has been a challenge for me because we are not directly involved with the whole ordeal, but I’ll have to get more creative and figure out some new activities.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions via Facebook!
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: All personal statements, beliefs, and opinions in this article are subject to the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jade Times and/or Delta Phi Lambda.
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Article Images: Nazia Khan