My Life | Keeping Eid special for children

“We celebrate Eid. E-I-D, it sounds like feed,” chimed my 6-year-old daughter to a friend showing off a bike he received for Hanukkah. “That’s when we get cool presents, too.”

I smiled as I saw her spelling and sounding out the holiday with confidence. I felt that all the years of wrapping presents, baking cookies and decorating the home for Eid was worth it as my children were as proud of their holidays as their friends were.

My children understand that they often have to explain Eid more than anyone would have to explain Christmas, but they take it in stride.

As Muslim-Americans, my children haven’t seen store windows or classrooms decorated for Eid like they would in predominantly Muslim countries, so we try to make up for it at home. We want them to know that being a Muslim-American is not an oxymoron. They can root for the Chicago Bears and go to the mosque for weekend school. They can prefer pizza over pita, but they also can fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan.

This has led many families like mine to get extra creative. Some moms gather the kids to bake “date bowls” in a kiln to get them into the festive spirit of Ramadan when most people break their fast with a date, as was the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. Some host Eid parties with variations of traditional games like pin the dome on the mosque, while others patronize retailers that sell “Eid Mubarak” cupcake wrappers and balloons.

It is so easy to go overboard with gifts and goodies, but we need to emphasize community service at the same time. We join other families that go beyond the shiny gift wrap and latest gizmos to package food for impoverished children in Africa or collect toys for newly arrived refugee families from Iraq.

In today’s world, creativity and community service need to be paired with being realistic. Our children are growing up in a time when the socio-political climate around them is not very favorable towards Muslims. Although they are surrounded by caring teachers, coaches and neighbors, we also need to be prepared for name calling or any form of bullying. Like other minorities in the past, I believe this too will pass.

But until then, I will keep on going the extra mile to keep our traditions alive so that our children continue to embrace their hyphenated identity with a smile.

Kiran Ansari is a freelance writer in Elgin. She enjoys celebrating Eid with her husband and two children.

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