I always find it amazing to look around my neighborhood every year and find the multitude of overlapping holidays that tend to fall around the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa time. It’s also pleasantly amazing to see that almost every year another holiday from across the globe seems to be added to the growing list of holidays celebrated around this time.
A few days ago the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, a celebration of lights and the Indian New Year, just wrapped up. Following closely after this festival comes the Muslim holiday of Eid Ul-Adha— not as well known as Ramadan, but still quite a big deal in my faith. Since Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the date of our holidays change each year, which was always difficult to explain to teachers back in middle-school and high-school when we were pleading for a day off to celebrate.
While Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, celebrates a month of fasting, patience, and prayer, Eid ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj (the ritual pilgrimage to Makah in Saudi Arabia that Muslims must undertake once in their lifetime if they are able to). Pictures of the Hajj often flash on the news channels around the time of this holiday where throngs of people dressed in white appear to nearly mesh into one another as they circumvent the Kabah (a black square structure at the heart of Makah believed to be built by Prophet Abraham and his son way back when). The purpose of the pilgrimage is essentially to reenact what the Prophet is believed to have done years ago and to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims from around the world with no dividers of age, race, wealth, or status. Whether or not you complete the Hajj, every year Eid ul-Adha marks a great celebration to the end of the 8-day pilgrimage and is viewed as the Feast of Sacrifice, where everyone who is financially able to should provide meat and food to those who are in need.
Eid Ul-Adha falls on November 16th this year and we’ve already planned the family festivities. In order to give our children a sense of the holiday, we usually make projects related to the Hajj, do our own little reenactment play with family and friends, teach our kids about giving charity and food to those who are less fortunate and really just appreciate the quality time we can spend with those we love. Substitute lamb for the turkey, a mini-Kabah for the decorations, and detract Santa, Black Friday madness, and the Christmas tree and you’ve essentially got the formula for a very similar holiday.
Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Eid ul-Adha or any other holiday this season, the main ingredients are still the same. It’s all about the family, the friends, and the remembrance that whichever faith you choose to follow—it is always worth being celebrated.
Happy Holidays to All-- wherever your holiday may fall! J-Suzy Ismail