Eid al-Fitr: A Three-Day Festival of Food, Laughter, and Gifts
The day of Eid is a joyful celebration in which families and friends gather to share food, laughter, gifts, and warm greetings. In Muslim-majority countries, Eid celebrations can last up to three days, and the streets and shops are bustling with decorations, excitement, and holiday cheer.
But what about new Muslims who live in a country where Eid barely registers in the public consciousness? What if the only holidays a convert knows how to celebrate are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Easter?
What if, after the Eid prayer is over, a new Muslim watches as everyone else leaves to visit relatives and friends, while she has nowhere to go?
New converts can experience the joy of Eid, even if initially the day makes them feel left out and melancholy.
I spoke with several converts to hear how they handled Eid as new Muslims. While many of them acknowledged that it was challenging, at first, to reinvent their holiday traditions, they all found ways to make Eid enjoyable. Here are six suggestions:
1. Make the Effort to Find a Community.
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a new convert is to find a group of Muslims who can be your role models and friends. They can be converts like you, or people who have been Muslim all their life. The key is to immerse yourself in a community and to find like-minded individuals who support and welcome you. This might take some effort on your part, and it will require some courage, particularly if you are shy or introverted.
First, check to see if your local mosque has a convert support network, a mentoring program, discussion groups, or classes. If they do, make sure to attend some of them. While there, introduce yourself to some participants and chat with them. Beautiful relationships can bloom from even one interaction! Ask Allah SWT to facilitate good friendships for you, and surely He will help. Another option (especially during the pandemic) is to join online convert support groups and/ or to connect with Muslims via social media. With our interconnectedness via modern technology, Muslims can help each other find mentors and friends anywhere in the world! Although face-to-face interactions are best, supportive relationships can also take place virtually. Why Islam can help you find a mentor in your area at this link.
2. Communicate Openly so That Others Can Help You.
Many people get caught up in their own day-to-day life and forget the needs of their brothers and sisters in faith. They sometimes require blatant reminders that their help is needed. If you are feeling lonely or unsupported and you have even one Muslim friend, ask him or her directly for help. Don’t hesitate to explain exactly what you need, whether it is a mentor, a way to connect with Muslims near you, more information about Islam, a plan for Eid, or someone to check in with you regularly. Most likely they would be delighted to help you, or to find someone who can.
If you let your needs be known, you will find that many Muslims will be eager to assist you. They might welcome you into their home for a cup of tea, connect you with friends, or invite you to gatherings. But it is possible that you will need to take the first step. Be brave and take it!
3. Ask Your Mosque to Host an Event.
A few weeks before Eid, ask mosque leaders if they can organize an event for community members– whether converts or lifelong Muslims — to celebrate the day together. The gathering could be as simple as a potluck in a park, or lunch at the mosque. The Islamic center will be able to advertise the event amongst its members, and many people will probably be thrilled to join in. To lighten the load on volunteers who are already very busy, you can offer to help take care of the logistics of the event.
4. Find Joy by Serving Others.
One convert I spoke with explained that she spent her first Eids as a new Muslim doing acts of kindness for others. She baked cookies and gave them to neighbors, friends, and colleagues. She mailed Eid cards to new Muslim acquaintances and distributed goodie bags to children at the mosque. She explained that helping others always makes her feel happier, and doing acts of service is a fantastic way to show the beauty of Islam. Giving charity on the day of Eid is an Islamic tradition, so also consider making donations of food or money to those in need.
5. If You’re All Alone, Pamper Yourself.
While helping others is definitely a wonderful way to commemorate Eid, you should not forget to be kind to yourself. Particularly if you do not have anyone to celebrate with this year, you should find joy in whatever halal way you can. One sister shared that she pampered herself with a day at the spa and a visit to her favorite bookstore. If you can take the day off work to attend Eid prayer and do at least one activity that brings you happiness, that will make the day special. Dressing up in your best clothes is recommended on Eid and will give your mood a boost.
6. Commit to Finding Some Friends in Time for the Next Eid.
Even if this Eid finds you alone, it does not have to set the tone for all your future celebrations. Make a commitment to yourself to try to find a few Muslim friends before the next Eid rolls around. The bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood are crucial to Islam. Muslims are encouraged to give each other gifts, visit each other, and take care of each other. There is immense reward in helping a fellow Muslim in need, and we are encouraged to interact with each other with kindness, warmth, and generosity. A solitary existence is not conducive to an Islamic lifestyle, so make dua for righteous friends and then take some concrete steps to find them. InshaAllah with the support and companionship of good friends, your future Eid celebrations will become memorable and happy.
Raised in a Midwestern Catholic family, Laura El Alam became a Muslim in 2000. She is a prolific writer whose work has been published in various magazines. Laura is the founder of Sea Glass Writing & Editing www.seaglasswritingandediting.com and runs the Facebook page The Common Sense Convert which aims to provide a beneficial online forum for Muslim women.