No matter what the weather, no matter how tasty the Eid breakfast, no matter how well I felt my Ramadan went, for many years after I converted to Islam, I followed the same old Eid pattern.
Wake up. Pray Fajr. Eat breakfast. Go to Eid Prayer.
Then I, my husband or both of us, would go to school or work. It was anti-climactic at best.
After a month of character building, spiritual highs and building a better relationship with the Quran, it was always right back to pre-Ramadan business as usual, hoping to keep the lessons and increased faith as we exited the month un-commemorated.
Until one year, I said enough! I put my foot down and didn’t go into work. I took the day off of school and insisted my husband do the same. Guess what happened?
No, the world didn’t fall apart. No, we didn’t fail our classes. We actually enjoyed ourselves.
We spent time to acknowledge what Ramadan meant to us and to celebrate our successes in it. And because of our celebration we felt more Muslim somehow. We felt closer to our community. We felt better prepared to move on and face the challenges of life outside of Ramadan.
In the Western world where few even know what Eid is, it is very difficult to get out of day to day commitments to celebrate the holiday or rather the holy day. It is even more difficult to have that holiday feeling when those around you are treating the day like any other ordinary day.
As converts, we have to give up a lot of our old holidays when we come into Islam. Giving up holidays where everyone is celebrating and everything is decorated can be difficult.
Many of us treasure our holiday memories and family traditions. But as Muslim we are not left with nothing in the place of our old tradition. As converts we can and must make new traditions and create a holiday feeling for ourselves.
For Gratification and Gratitude
It is important to carve out time on Eid al-Fitr day to take a moment and punctuate your success in Ramadan. Celebrating the achievement of our goals can do a lot to help us have a healthy outlook on future goals. For many of us converts who didn’t have the years and years of training in fasting as children when it is OK to slip up, Ramadan can prove to be a challenge.
So once we have reached our Ramadan goals, why shouldn’t we celebrate, why shouldn’t we take the time to congratulate ourselves and be thankful to Allah for guiding us? When we fail to take time to celebrate our successes and thankfulness we unintentionally ignore them.
To Feel Belonging
Eid is a group celebration. Celebrating as a group bestows a sense of belonging, something crucial to feeling fulfilled. Many converts feel isolated from their community and refuse to even attend Eid prayer, citing that a lot of born Muslims are guarded when it comes to converts. Even though this kind of treatment is unacceptable, for converts to miss out on Eid prayer is a mistake and a missed opportunity.
Being present at celebrations like Eid will allow regular members of the community to become familiar with us. And when we involve ourselves more and more in the Islamic gatherings, like Eid, we start to feel a sense of belonging and fulfillment.
To Shape Our Identity
Celebrating Eid shapes our identity as Muslims. The hadith:
“Whoever imitates a people is from them.” (Abu Dawud)
Meaning that once you imitate, try to copy, you are no longer just imitating you are actually that type of person. This is often cited when talking about imitating the non-Muslims. But what does it mean when it comes to being Muslims?
Usually when we think of imitation of others, we think of it in terms of an insult of debasing ourselves. But this is not true when we imitate the best of mankind-the imitation of the Prophet Muhammad.
When we become Muslims and do as the Prophet did, this no longer is a type of imitation as the hadith suggests. We are in reality from the Muslims. Celebrating Eid al-Fitr can do a lot to shape that Islamic identity.
How to Celebrate
It was narrated that Aishah said:
“Abu Bakr entered upon me and there were two of the young girls of the Ansar with me who were singing the verses that the Ansar had recited on the day of Bu’ath.”
“But they were known to be singers.”
Abu Bakr said:
“Wind instruments of the Satan in the house of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him)?”
That was the day of Eid. Allah’s Messenger said:
“O Abu Bakr! Every people have their Eid and this is our Eid.”
In another narration it is said that Allah’s Messenger said:
“Let them be O’ Abu Bakr, for these are the days of Eid.” (Muslim)
Take off of Work or School
Taking the day off should be a no brainer, but to many converts it is hard for many reasons. But taking the day of Eid off is necessary to feel fulfilled, to feel belonging, to shape our Muslim identity.
Notify your boss/ teacher/ professors in advance that you will not be attending on the day of Eid. Explain to them what Eid is. If they don’t recognize this Muslim holiday, offer to get a note from the Imam of your community. Every employer and school has a different situation, be kind and courteous about asking off but firm in insisting on your religious freedom.
Wear Your Best Clothes or Buy New Clothes
Any woman will tell you that nothing makes an event feel more special than a new outfit. This is not just true for women. Fine clothes have the capability to boost our mood.
Go shopping for your Eid outfit and have it ready to go on the morning of Eid. If you’re not interested in purchasing a new garment, wear something that is special to you. When you look special, you will feel special. When you feel special, you look special.
Remember both men and women should remain modest and stay within the limits set by Allah when selecting their Eid attire.
Be in Good Company
If your community is hosting a gathering post Eid prayer- go! If you feel shy to go alone, take someone you know with you (even a non-Muslim- this can be good dawah). Spend time with your family or friends if you can. Invite Muslims in your area to spend time with you doing fun activities.
If you have no Muslim family or friends, invite a non-Muslim friend or family member to play hooky and spend the day with you (don’t encourage them to lie, but see if they can take a personal day off).
If there is no way to be with someone on Eid, Skype a Muslim friend who lives far away. Celebrate with an online community by spreading congratulations and pictures of your Eid. Be positive and remember that one quarter of the world is celebrating Eid with you.
Treat yourself like you would on your birthday or Christmas before you converted. Buy yourself flowers, a present, or take yourself to your favorite restaurant. Use the good china for meals at home. Take a bubble bath. Create a new tradition for yourself (and your family if they are Muslim). Try writing a letter to yourself to read at the beginning of next Ramadan for encouragement.
Give yourself permission to be happy on Eid. A little happiness can go a long way. There are so many reasons to celebrate Eid, and so many ways in which to do it. Why let this Eid al-Fitr slip by uncelebrated?