The excitement behind Eid-Al-Fitr is a multifaceted one. For many, it’s a momentous occasion as it mainly marks the end of Ramadan and is an opportunity to give thanks for being healthy enough to have fasted the whole month. For others, it’s the thought of indulging in sweets and food again that inspires a jovial and lighthearted mood. And for others, it’s the joy that comes from knowing that we get all this and still have the second Eid to look forward to.
“It’s like having two Christmases in one year!” I remember telling my non-Muslim friends. As a child, of course I knew the significance of both celebrations and especially of Eid-Al-Adha (the teachers ensured that this was an IRE test question every term), but at the end of the day, it all came down to how much money one had collected from “maraundi mtaani” — a common Mombasa Eid childhood theme. Though I was generously gifted every Eid, my parents were relatively strict so I never quite had the privilege of walking door to door singing “Idi Mbaruku” in exchange for small change from neighbors and friends. But that never upset me. At the end of the day, we would empty our bags, count our money, and determine how much would be used at the funfair and how much was to be handed to our parents for saving.
How things have changed… As one grows older, the chances of being gifted dwindle dramatically and it’s ever more painful in those moments when you are “broke as a joke” and could use that extra 100 to pay for phone credit. I’m just saying…
More importantly for me though, these last two Eids have been spectacular and have forced me to have certain reflections quite unique given my circumstances. As a child who went to boarding school and then college abroad, I’ve rarely been able to spend Eid with family or friends. Most Eids were spent dressing up, going to class and in my dorm room after either studying, doing homework or browsing the net. At best, my Muslims friends and I would dine together and at worst, I would celebrate it by being cooped up in the library for part of the day doing research or studying for a major exam.
As I am currently not a student anymore, the working life affords me the opportunity to plan and spend my weekends and days off to my liking. I managed to spend both Eids this year with large groups of friends and family and it reinforced my values on how much I cherish my family and celebrate community and communal efforts. Eid without family is just not the same and is more so incredibly significant precisely because of this. Of course Eid with family has its challenges especially when Musa and dad are ready to go in 5 minutes and don’t quite understand why the women in the family are taking so long to get ready when they have been up since four or five preparing breakfast and Eid sweets…
Even with its minor challenges, it’s easy to take it for granted when one is capable of spending every moment with family. For those of us who don’t quite have this privilege and have to make sacrifices, the opportunities to celebrate with family is enriching.
And it goes beyond the close circle of family and friends. In certain ways, it has forced me to recognize only to be in awe of how connected I feel with the rest of the Ummah. Like Hajj, Eid and especially Eid prayers are a rare occasion to witness and learn how we as Muslims are equal in the eyes of God. No man, no woman is better than the other. We might dress differently but we all prostrate and say takbirat in the same way. We might have our diverse and unique traditions but we all wake up smiling and hugging. It’s a clear indication that we might be very different but even in our differences are we capable of setting those aside to celebrate our commonalities: it’s a theme that can and should permeate many other aspects of our lives.
Let’s be more tolerant. Let’s celebrate the greater good that binds us together.