Sometimes I am amazed by the sheer amount of Things I Do Not Know. Or, more to the point, Things I Did Not Know But Recently Discovered, hence my ability to list them. This fascinating holiday called Eid, for example. I don't know why I never paid attention to it before. Yes, it is an Islamic holiday and yes, I am not Muslim, but you'd think I would have at least had a basic understanding of it. (A disclaimer: I'm not a theologian, and my information on Islam is based on observance and on a small amount of research, so forgive me if my facts aren't entirely correct. I will try to represent the holiday to the best of my knowledge, which is, I admit, incomplete.)
Eid is a pretty interesting holiday with a lot of things going for it.
1) It occurs twice (how many holidays do that? Wouldn't it be cool if they all did?)- little Eid marks the end of Ramadan in August-ish and big Eid is in late October-sh.
2) August and October. Perfect time for a holiday, right? Partway into the school year, right when everyone needs a break.
3) Eid is a holiday that celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. But the major emphasis of the holiday is on family. Everyone does “Eid visits,” where they make the rounds of the homes of all their relatives and friends, have tea and goodies, and talk. It makes everyone very busy, but I think it's nice. When I am home for holidays, I try to see everyone, but it's not easy, and sometimes, I am too lazy to leave my chair by the fire. Eid doesn't let you make excuses like that, and it gives you a chance to connect with friends you haven't seen in a while.
I went on four Eid visits, and they were a lot of fun! We went to the homes of colleagues and friends, ate cake (which I spilled all over my chadar. Sigh...), had tea, and laughed a lot. At the bottom of this post, you can see some photos of the visits.
4) One of the parts of Eid that I like the most is the emphasis on charitable giving. Those who can afford it slaughter an animal and give a third of the meat to family, a third to friends, and a third to the poor. This is a very important aspect of the holiday, from what I've been told, and it is carefully observed. Now, I know that there are times when we emphasize giving, but as far as I've observed, not to this level. I believe that charitable giving/service/taking-time-to-help-and-understand-others (whether that means those less fortunate than you or just in general) should take place year round, and I've heard the arguments about the harms of treating charity as a once-a-year obligation, but regardless, I still think that the Eid customs are important and beautiful.
5) Eid also emphasizes prayer. There are extra prayers during Eid, where people gather multiple times each day to pray in large communities. I like this idea of large group prayer. It feels sometimes like holidays such as Christmas and Easter become so secularized and the world so politically correct that the religious significance of the holiday is overlooked or at least not emphasized. I believe in religious freedom, but I also wonder what it would be like to live in a country where ALL of my friends and neighbors gathered to pray together.
It was really interesting to be here and to learn about this holiday that is so central to Islam. I spent my holiday at a friend's home because my host family was gone. This was also enjoyable (hot showers, lots of books and lots of writing, Internet, sleeping in, cookie dough...good vacation, right?), but there was a part of me that envied my Muslim friends their holiday. This sounds hypocritical, since I currently live on the other side of the world than my family, but I think that family, giving, and prayer are important parts of the holidays, and I love how integral they are to Eid.
Eid has now been added to my list of Things I Have Experienced!
Homes for Eid visits are all very