I was filled with anticipation to celebrate my first Eid.
Ramadan was in late spring that year so a day of fasting was fairly long. I was a new Muslim living in a city with few Muslims so I was very happy to drive an hour and accept the comfort of fellow Muslims all celebrating together.
The children at the masjid were dressing in fancy cloths, it was busy with families rushing about, and the wonderful aroma of fresh donuts and coffee filled the air.
After prayer my host family and I visited one house after another. We were in a university town so many of the Muslims were students who came from all over the world. Each home offered us drinks and baked goods traditional in their homeland.
The food they served was a taste of ‘Eid from home, but all the food was unusual to me…
Celebrating Eid My Own Way
What I learned from my first few ‘Eids’ is that in cultures where Islam is the dominant religion, they have had time to blend traditions into Eid celebrations. A few traditions that all Muslims share and practice are from the Prophet’s example.
As a new Muslim and growing up with strong family bonds around holidays I wanted to keep some of my own traditions during Muslim celebrations, so I could enjoy and share my own special family food and activities. I started out researching my family’s holiday traditions and looking at the un-Islamic aspects in them.
So I made an effort to not keep traditions that imitated other religions’ traditions and practices. I learned the origins of many traditions that I took for granted. For example, I did not know why we put lit candles on birthday cakes and blew the candles out after making a birthday wish.
My father enjoyed good food and knew how to cook, but rarely did. I have fond memories of my father in the kitchen making special holiday sweets.
I have kept that tradition alive with my children during our Muslim holidays. When I first started a family I would bake not less than 7 different types of sweets. I would make and store enough to create small variety plates to hand out on ‘Eid. When my family grew and I no longer had time to make so many cookies I limited the variety.
Some of my Muslim family members also grew up with similar traditions as me. When we started talking about the fond memories and traditions that we enjoyed around the holidays that we no longer celebrated, we naturally made our own ‘Eid traditions that grew out of our culture so we could share them with our children.
Muslim Celebrations Mark Simplicity and Modesty
Our Eid traditions are modest. I always let anyone who wants to help decorate the inside of the house. Two weeks before Eid we hang lights and large paper stars that hold a light bulb inside so it makes the paper glow. My mother in-law makes cut out cookies in the shapes of stars and moons. All the children spread icing sugar on the cookies.
I usually make a few types of cookies or sweets as well. Some of my recipes come from my family and some I have taken from other cultures because you can never go wrong with butter and sugar! I have gotten the response I was looking forward to all those years ago. If I don’t make the usual variety of cookies then the family feels disappointed, because they were looking forward to those special cookies for Eid.
Other Eid traditions for our family include going to Eid prayers together. We then go to one family member’s home where we exchange gifts. After the gift frenzy ends we eat lunch together, we usually go out so no one has to cook. We focus on the children for gift giving and Grandpa usually hands cash out to them all.
This year I tried something new. I was hopeful this idea may start a tradition for my small group of Muslim friends. I have always wanted to do this activity for Eid, but I never thought I would be able to find a group of other like-minded Muslims that would enjoy it as much as I would.
This year I hosted an Eid Cookie Exchange Party. I invited a large group of Muslim friends who are from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I asked them to make five dozen of one type of their favorite cookie to bring to the party.
We emptied our containers of cookies onto trays I had laid out on my dining table. Each guest labeled the cookie, and brought the recipe. We then used our empty containers to go around the table and fill them with a variety from everyone’s cookies.
There are many holiday traditions you can create to enjoy good memories and foster strong family bonds around Muslim holidays. It really depends on where you live, the time of year ‘Eid falls in, your interests, and the availability of services in your community.
Old ‘Eid traditions and new ones can be blended together so everyone in the family feels included. I am proud of my family traditions and I enjoy sharing them with my Muslim and non-Muslim friends.
Share you Eid memories.