Last December my son (6 years old then) asked me “Mama, can you ask Allah if it’s OK if we can celebrate Christmas this year- just once?”
That broke my heart.
I felt like I failed as a Muslim parent living in the West. Here I thought I was this hip and happening Mama- as if better than my own parents at ‘knowing what it’s like growing up here’. Despite implementing the Eid crafts and fun ideas I had Pinned-I was unsuccessful at making him appreciate our own festivals and holidays. I’m not worried that one day he will buy himself a tree and sing carols ;I’m worried that this might be the beginning of an inferiority complex. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as teaching your child not to want what other kids have- it’s about resisting the Anglo Saxon conformity subtly imposed on every religious minority.
One of the many reasons we send him to Islamic school is for him to develop a strong Islamic identity and to escape the ‘transmuting pot’ of public schools.Unlike the Eurocentric education I received I want him to know that Muslims are awesome and full of rich history .I want him to know that the world is a better place because of Muslims.That they changed the world through their revolutionary inventions ,ideas and laws. I want him to be proud of the fact that Muslims invented Algebra, coffee, vaccines, the windmill, Universities and the first pin-hole camera to name just a few. Though he won’t live in the Islamic school bubble forever, I wanted to shelter him from discrimination as well as the constant pressure to conform to the Anglo Saxon values. I’m all up for hockey and maplesyrup but not religion, how about you have yours and I have mine?
Yet, here we are discussing why my child wants to celebrate Christmas.
Does every kid want to celebrate Christmas?
Was I like that? Yup, I absolutely was…While browsing through the Christmas catalogs I secretly had my Christmas tree and décor all picked out for my hypothetically ‘fun life’. I didn’t long to be Christian, I longed to participate in this really festive and exciting holiday. I longed to join in on the conversations kids had at school about the amazing presents Santa brought them. Instead, thanks to the hijab on my head, my classmates knew I was different and painstakingly I knew it too. While the school educated us on Christmas, it was up to me to explain that the henna on my hands didn’t hurt and I don’t know why I was unaware of when Eid was. If only the hijab didn’t give away my secret- I could pretend Santa thought I had been “nice” enough to receive gifts too.
I now feel my parents fear of us trying to be like ‘them’ (maybe they found my Christmas catalog)- I understand why they thought attending the Santa Claus parade was like dangling above a slippery slope.
Unfortunately they focused so hard on not letting us enjoy Christmas that making Eid fun was the last thing on their minds. If anything, the fear of us adopting non-Muslim values was so strong that they almost didn’t let us have fun on religious holidays because they had fun on their holidays! OK fine I’m exaggerating a tad bit but seriously our Eid traditions included some aunty or uncle napping!
Even before I was married, I had vowed to make Eid exciting and special. Up until my son asked me about celebrating Christmas, I thought I was doing a pretty good job! It was a real wake up call. His Eid’s might be better than my Eids…but they’re still not good enough.
I’m going to take on Goliath and compete with Christmas. Like many Christian or non-Muslim parents I am searching for scientifically proven ways to make our religious holidays ‘merrier’.
I don’t want to create my own version of Christmas (Date palm tree instead of a Pine tree)- I just want Eid to be a fun and joyous occasion that my kids look forward to all year-long and get excited to celebrate (and prefer over all other holidays). I think I was unsuccessful at making Eid as exciting as Christmas because I was competing with the ideals of Christmas my son had in his mind. He has no idea that like anything on TV, it is over hyped and not as fun as it looks.
Many adults of religious minority groups-let alone children -feel microaggression and subtle discrimination during Christmas which eventually affects their psychological well-being , stress levels and makes them feel alienated in their own homeland. Eventually some religious minorities try to blend in with the host group by shedding their multicultural garments and nuances. Those that ‘pass’ as non-minorities are afforded privileges the minorities are not. Some parents purposely name their children ethnocentric names like Muhammad, but they can easily turn into Mo if they want to ‘pass’ badly enough. I firmly believe instilling religious pride and confidence in our children from the very beginning is essential to protecting their Iman for the long run.
For now I want to make Islam and being a Muslim seem cool.We may be living in a society that barely acknowledges Eid but it doesn’t mean that we can’t make our kids love it. It’s all about associating positive emotions with the Eid experience; so whenever Muslim kids think about Eid- the pleasure centre in their brain lights up- we can do it! This is not your typical ‘how to make Eid fun’ list- most of the tips are scientifically proven to evoke happy feelings.
Besides slipping Prozac in everyone’s food- how else can you make everyone feel giddy and joyous on Eid ?
15 ways to make Eid fun
1) Take time off: Eid might not fall conveniently on a weekend or national holiday (not yet anyway!) so when planning your vacation days from work – make sure to book days off for Eid. Many families go to work or school because ‘they’re not doing anything anyway’. This speaks volumes to the value of Eid to your children. Eid must not be as important or special as family vacations or appointments- otherwise we would have made time. Obviously in situations where there is no choice- explain to the kids that you otherwise would have loved to.
2) Decorate- Actions speak louder than words, beautifying your homes with special decorations during Eid time is symbolic of your happiness and excitement. Allhumdullillah there’s a huge market of chic and professional Eid décor– it might seem expensive but think of it like a one time investment. Bring it out year after year or make your own!
Many times it’s us the parents that are the reason why Eid is not fun. If you’re not having a good time chances are your children are not either.
3) Look for reasons to
be happy smile. Yes it’s really annoying that half your family is celebrating on another day or couldn’t get time off from school or work- still, try to focus on only the good things today. Put a smile on your face, laugh, sing –be joyous Studies show that forcing yourself to be happy only increases your anxiety but even fake smiling sends happy signals throughout your body. Let’s not forget that smiling is a Sunnah too!
4) Schedule your fights for another day. “Let’s get ready to RRRRRRRUUUUMMMMBBBBLLLEEE!!!” kinda describes my husband and I on Eid. Fists up, head down, floating like butterflies, stinging like bees. EVERYTHING makes us want to fight. Have a deal with your spouse that you will deal with it tomorrow. Yes Shaytaan is fresh out and ready to make up for the entire month of being locked up- what better way than to cause animosity within the family? If something bothers you, put a reminder on your phone to ‘fight later’ if that’s what going to help you feel better- but on this day just be a ball of joy.
Focus on the kids
5) I’m so guilty of following the motions of Eid, the obligations of what ‘we have to do’ or ‘ the people we have to visit’ that Eid is sometimes a series of taking the kids in and out of car seats and warning them not to get their clothes dirty because we have more houses to visit. Whether you have kids of your own or not- do something nice for the kids you meet on the day of Eid. Have a pocket full of goodies/candies you hand out to the kids you encounter. Tell jokes, pay attention to them- make it your goal to put a smile on their faces.
6) Attend an Eid Salah that has a carnival for the kids as well. More than toys and presents, experiences make you happy. Test: ask your child what toys they got for Eid last year- chances are they won’t remember.They will however remember jumping in the bouncy castle and having their faces painted.
7) Kid Party: Most dinner parties focus only on adults and children are often an afterthought, leaving parents hunting for kid friendly food or a place to sit where the kids won’t destroy the hosts home. Gather a few parents and host a kids Eid party! The food, the theme, the height of the serving tables- everything should focus on the kids.
8) Digital Eid Scavenger Hunt: give the kids a list of things to take pictures of through out Eid day. At the end of the evening gather as a family and see Eid through their eyes. (Examples:A picture of: people hugging at Eid Salah, a happy child, the yummiest thing you ate that day, Papa smiling, someone doing a good deed, a blue bird etc)
9) Around the clock Eid: set your timer on your watch/phone and every hour do something fun for the kids. It could be a sugar free lollipop, stickers, a joke,a balloon, a gift from the dollar store, a visit from the tickle monster- just keep the Eid momentum going!
Logically you would think that receiving will make you happier than giving. But the opposite is true! Studies show that getting presents don’t in fact make for a ‘merrier Christmas/Eid’- giving gifts, especially to the less fortunate does.
10) Eid Gift Jar: I came across an article about favourite Christmas traditions- I loved it! Insha’Allah I will definitely be doing this one next year. In the beginning of Ramadan, collect change in a jar all month long. Few days before Eid count the money, buy as many practical things (socks, deodorant, tooth brush, non perishable food) and goodies (chocolate, body spray, gift cards to restaurants) and put it all in a large gift bag. On Eid day, drive around town looking for the needy. Walk up to the homeless person, say Happy Eid- keep it short and sweet. Explain that it’s your holiday and give them the gift bag.
11) Food bank: Collect non-perishable items and drop them off to the local food-bank or Masjid on the day of Eid and watch your spirits rise!. It’s important to make time to do good deeds on Eid as a reminder that charity is part of our Islamic tradition. Masha’Allah the Ramadan Rangers are an excellent role model for our children to follow.
12) Secret Eidee- Combat the stress of giving everyone the perfect gift and avoid going broke by setting up a system wherein extended family and friends each buy a single gift for the person whose name they drew from a hat. This has been our family tradition for years and its something we all look immensely forward to.
13) A month long of small gifts: Yes there’s this fear of commercializing Eid but giving gifts is a Sunnah. You don’t have to go overboard but it’s something kids really look forward to. I give my son a treat at iftaar time in his Ramadan calendar- Ramadan is a month long celebration after all (and it’s my way of making up for being cranky!).
14) Experience based gifts:As much as you love something when you first unwrap it- its novelty and joy will eventually wear off. Experiences on the other hand still give pleasure as we remember them. Idea: Print out ‘IOU coupons’ for fun experiences such as 2 hours at Chuckee Cheese or a gift certificate for the spa,
Though many of us and especially our children, are not first generation immigrants, the fact of the matter is that as long as we maintain our ‘religious garments’- we will continue to be treated as such. Instead of opting to remove the hijab or beard to escape the psychological effects of subtle or overt discrimination, we must overcome this issue by taking every opportunity to make our children proud of their Islamic identity. Obviously Eid is just one way to do so- but Allhumdullillah it’s an easy way.
Originally I set out to write a “Top 10 list” on how to make Eid fun, along the way I unearthed a deeper purpose to this post. It’s not just about how to make Eid fun- it’s why we must make Eid fun. For the sake of the future of the Muslim Ummah please don’t take Eid lightly.
How do you make Eid fun? I would love to hear your traditions.