Celebrating Eid Christmas style

<< From the AltMuslimah Archives >> When she was five, my niece was adamant that she wanted to celebrate Christmas. While her mother bemoaned the prevalence of Santa in the local mall and the carols her daughter learned in preschool, I understood the little girl’s innocent fascination with the holiday. With its sheer materialism, gaudiness, glitz and ceremony, not to mention the feel good TV specials, our Eid simply can’t compare with Christmas— maybe Eid celebrations in Middle Eastern or South East Asian countries would stand a chance, but certainly not our small Eid festivities in the American suburbs.
To be fair, there is a bit of disparity when it comes to the fun factor. The Christian children look forward to sugar plum fairies, while we open our tins to find nuts and dates. They enjoy Christmas cookie exchanges and holiday parties with jolly old Santa, while we soldier on through thirty days of hunger and thirst. They wake up to brightly wrapped gifts piled under the Christmas tree, while we learn lessons in self-discipline.

Simply put, I want Eid to go commercial. I want to roam up and down the aisles of Walmart and load Eid decorations into my cart. I want fancy wrapping paper with stars and crescents sprinkled across it available at Target. I want to see a Hallmark store section with the heading “Eid Cards” that offers more than a few token selections. The very aspects of their holiday Christians lament, I yearn for. To be clear, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that Ramadan is, and should remain, a time of year centered around sacrifice, self-discipline, charity and recitation of the Qur’an. But I also believe that this month of personal reflection and remembrance of our Creator should be topped off with revelry– Muslim American children deserve to be rewarded at the conclusion of Ramadan with lanterns, trinkets and tchotchkes.

I want to keep the spiritual but add some sparkle. And here is the problem – my Macy’s doesn’t stock embroidered silk shalwar kameezes and T.J. Maxx is out of Eid baubles whenever I go. My children and I are forced to draw on our creativity and invent our own Eid traditions. I certainly don’t want to duplicate Christmas or Hanukah, which means no Eid wreaths, or Eid trees or even Eid bushes, but we have no qualms about morphing American customs to fit our motifs. One of our earliest adaptations involved transforming star shaped Christmas tree ornaments into star and crescent decorations which we then hung on every doorknob in the house. We add one thing to our pile of decorative goodies every year, and I won’t deny that there have been years where it took some serious brainstorming and imagination. Our masterpieces include painted canvas banners to hang on our front door announcing the arrival of Eid, hand painted plates to hold dates, and place mats with the supplication with which we open our fast printed on them.

In my home the decorations go up two weeks before Eid because if they remain up for the entire month of Ramadan, the darling handmade treasures turn into dust-catching visual clutter. The presents come out a few days before Eid; otherwise, my children will succumb to their excitement and curiosity and tear them open before end of Ramadan. I love to watch my three kids fail magnificently at hiding the evidence of their peeking. Food, and lots of it, is a given. Everyone knows that calorie counts are null and void during this month. So, although it hasn’t been easy I have strived to create an atmosphere of fun and festivity in our home. In our house we have presents, plentiful decorations, and platefuls of rich, delicious food. The only thing left to say is, “Santa, bring it on.”
(Photo Credits: Tahir Hashmi and Khairil Faizi)

Nausheena Ahmed was born in England, raised in Canada and is currently living in New Jersey. She is busy raising three kids whose names she never wants to see on a front page with the words “serial killer” or “psychopath” beside them. This article was originally published on AltMuslimah on October 10, 2011.

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