Eid al-Fitr, which is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, will be celebrated this week and I am very excited! It is a three-day celebration that starts with a morning prayer; attending Eid prayer at the mosque is my favourite part. Thereafter, there's lots of cooking of delicious food and sharing it with family and friends, along with spending time with loved ones. Eid parties and gatherings often happen on Eid and/or the weekend that follows. Women often apply henna to their hands and go shopping for new clothes. Kids receive gifts and/or money. It is the Muslim version of Christmas.
My three-year-old is still young and does not fully grasp the concept of Eid, but my six-year old has been looking forward to it within days of Ramadan starting a month ago. In our home, we do not give our kids Christmas gifts, but they receive gifts on both Eids (there is another Eid that occurs later in the year). When I asked my son why he is excited about Eid, I thought he would say "gifts." That answer would definitely bother me, but I would remind myself that he is a kid. To my surprise and happiness, my son said to me, "I don't know. I just can't wait for everyone to come over and we'll have treats." For a kid who leads a pretty busy social life, I was happy to hear that he understands Eid is special and different from the many parties we attend and have at our home.
We enjoy hosting Eid al-Fitr at our home. There's something nice about having family and close friends come over to celebrate. Our little family of four (me, my parents and brother) has grown so much with the addition of kids, in-laws, and extended family, that it makes celebrating Eid even more exciting. It was not always like that though. Growing up, we did not have family living in Toronto, though we did have two uncles and my grandfather live with us at different points in my childhood. We were fortunate to have family friends that were close to us like family. Eid would entail visiting each other and then having a potluck Eid party at someone's home on the weekend. Over time, my parents' community of friends grew, and Eid parties began being held on a larger scale at local community center party halls. As all good things come to an end, politics creeped in and there was a chunk of time those Eid parties became obsolete or plain old boring.
During my teenage years when Eid parties were no longer what they use to be, I found other ways to celebrate. At this point in high school, I had made some amazing friends, four of which continue to be my best friends to date. These friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, would celebrate with me. My fondest memories of Eid during my high school days was coming home from prayer and having brunch with my family, and then waiting for my non-Muslim friends to finish school so a bunch of us could go out for dessert.
Eid has always been special in our home, but the one thing I always wanted, I did not have. I wished that, like many of my friends and family friends, I had extended family to celebrate with. That wish came true at the age of 26 when I got married to my husband who also came from a family of four. When the first Eid, as a married couple, came along, I felt a sense of anxiety coupled with excitement. I was anxious because I knew we would have to figure out the details of lunch and dinner and with whose parents we would be sharing either with. I could not imagine brunch anywhere apart from with my parents and brother and I was fortunate that my husband's family preferred dinner together. Almost 10 years into our marriage later, this tradition continues to exist.
In addition to adopting some of the traditions we grew up with, my husband and I have started new ones also. Both of our families, while growing up, hand delivered Eid goodies to our respective neighbours; my husband and I have adopted this tradition into our Eid routine. Neither of our immediate neighbours nor the neighbours that live in the homes across us are Muslim, so we remind them what we are celebrating and part of our celebration is honouring that Islam encourages us to share our food with our family, friends and neighbours.
One of our Eid goodies is a dish called kheer. It is made with boiled milk, rice or vermicelli, and sugar (other things can also be added). It is so simple and yet so delicious. My mom knows how much we love her kheer and that is a staple in our home, along with a couple of other dishes. Like many celebrations, Eid is also food centered in many ways. Every year, we get together with our family and friends and have a potluck dinner. This year, I am hosting at my house, but I have decided to change it up a bit. Instead of everyone bringing a dish, I suggested catering and sharing the cost. I thought it would be a nice break for the cooks and for me as a host. Ultimately, it does not matter if we cook or cater or where we get together, as long as we do.
I will miss Ramadan, but I am also ready to say goodbye until next year. The gifts for the kids are packed, henna on my hands has been applied, the house will get decorated today, and brunch food is in preparation mode. We are ready for Eid. Eid Mubarak/Happy Eid to everyone!
MORE ON HUFFPOST: