by Wasan Abu-Baker
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day holiday that all Muslims celebrate at the end of fasting the month of Ramadan; it is a wonderful and fun holiday for everyone. The Eid is a reward for all Muslims who fast during the month of Ramadan and is celebrated on the first of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
The day before Eid, Muslim women in some countries decorate their hands with beautiful Henna, and many Islamic centers hold Henna booths for little girls and women the night before Eid called “Chat Ratt.” All Muslims prepare new clothes for Eid and make special cookies called Mamool. Mamool are cookies made of semolina stuffed with dates and nuts, garnished with powdered sugar. Sheer Khurma is a Persian desert made of vermicelli, whole milk, sugar, and dates. Gulab Jamun is a south Asian sweet from Pakistan and India that is a milk based doughnut soaked in syrup.
Eid begins early morning when Muslims begin their day by traditionally eating something sweet before going to the Eid prayer (congregation) where Muslims from all surrounding towns come together. After the prayer, all Muslims hug and congratulate each other saying, “Eid Mubarak,” which means congratulations and “taqabala Allah mina wa minkum,” which means may God accept our fast. Before the Eid prayer, Muslims are obligated to pay Zakat–Al–Fitr, a charity that goes to poorer families in the community. Family and friends celebrate the three days of Eid together, and traditionally they meet together at the eldest members home to congratulate each other, exchange gifts, and plan fun activities. Children usually receive gifts of money (Eidia or Eidi) from their parents, relatives, neighbors, and friends.
I was raised in a Muslim country, Palestine, where we as children spent our Eid in a very difficult situation worrying about our safety and not enjoying Eid as much as we could. During this time, I think about other children in war zones such as Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. Not all children can buy new clothes and toys during this time of celebration, and it is sad that they are missing out on what most children around the world do enjoy. For some children, they have lost their homes, family members, neighbors, and school friends, and they may be living outside their homes, in refugee camps, or somewhere temporary. They live in fear of not knowing how long they will be allowed to stay in the host countries where they are refugees or if the NGOs will be able to keep providing to them their everyday necessities.
This year is the first Eid that our new Syrian neighbors will be spending in the US, and it feels very different for them. They have somewhere safe to stay and celebrate this holiday and a loving community here welcoming them. They are not living in fear of being harmed or having nowhere to stay like they did before coming to the US. They celebrate Eid this year still hoping that maybe someday their homes will be safe again for them to return to; this is unlikely, but hope for better things to come and that God has a plan is a big part of our faith. We are always confident that with the passing of every challenge, God will make things easier for us somehow. Going through hardship is a way of gaining more faith and getting closer to God.
There are certainly ways that we can make these hardships easier for our Syrian brothers and sisters. As a community we can help them celebrate Eid with all of its beauty by getting them new clothes to wear on the day of Eid, toys for the children, food, and outings to let them enjoy their time on this special occasion. This will help, but of course, it will not replace the loss that they feel from being away from their home and away from their extended families. These children have lost their childhood, but we can help to give part of it back.
Check out more immigrant and refugee stories in KRL’s Tales of Diversity category. If you would like to help Syrian refugees in the Fresno area please visit Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM)’s special webpage.