“I’m making up for a month of fasting,” she said, humorously.
The day of Eid arrived, signifying the end of a month of daytime fasting. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims who spend it (primarily) by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise until sunset (among other nitty gritties). But from sunset until sunrise, all (halal) food is allowed. So when people are stunned at the ‘no eating for a WHOLE MONTH?!’ thing, I’m kind of confused. Like, huh? You missed the part in the memo about ‘from sunrise until sunset’? It’s not thirty (or twenty-nine, depending on the moon) straight days of no eating.
(SIDE NOTE: That link for ‘Ramadan’ provides a nice exploration into what Ramadan is, if you are unfamiliar with it, though it still has that from-the-outside-looking-in feel to it, with some minor inaccuracies. But a fair read nonetheless.)
And that brings me here. The narrative that started this.
So Eid soon arrived. And Muslim women (yep, no men at work here) the world over began the sacred ritual of preparing feasts for their families to eat. Eid, after all, quite literally means ‘feast’.
The feasting is great. I love the feast. I love my mom’s pie (which in recent years, with mom getting older, have instead become a collaborative effort between my sister and me — she does the filling, I do the pastry and the baking bit). I love home-baked bread. I love soutvleis. I love my momma’s fruit cake. I love puddings.
But I don’t love the frivolous idea that one needs to eat all that good stuff to ‘make up’ for the month-long fast that preceded Eid day.
Eid is not about making up for any lack of eating. Eid is not about celebrating the end of not being able to eat, like: ‘Shoo, hallelujah, that’s finally over! Let’s celebrate and eat until we can’t breathe.’
Everything that you eat on Eid day could have been eaten on any
day night during Ramadan. You weren’t deprived. Rather, you were gifted. We were gifted. We were gifted with opportunities for redemption. A multitude of opportunities. We were gifted with opportunities for forgiveness, with showers of Mercy, with visions of love and kindness, with inspirations of generosity and compassion. We were gifted by having food taken away from us so that we took focus off our bodies and tummies and paid attention to our hearts, our souls, and our minds. We were gifted with closeness to our God, with time in His company and that of His angels.
I don’t mean to berate the person who said that line about ‘making up for a month of fasting’; this post is not intended to preach. The purpose for this post is that her flippant statement saddened me. And because it was to an audience of non-Muslims who would consequently also have the wrong idea of what fasting and Eid is all about. This post is because I was reminded of a time when I, too, didn’t quite grasp the gift of Ramadan. It was merely something to get through. That is a sad place to be in. It is lonely there. In that place, we don’t get to have conversations with Allah. In that place, our hearts don’t have the opportunity to feast on the love and the mercy that surrounds us. We don’t get to read His Love Letter to us (i.e. the Quran) and be moved by it. In that place of ritualised ‘starvation’ we don’t get to truly celebrate Eid for all that it is.
Far more than a grand feast, Eid is supposed to be a day of celebration of all the energy we exerted in worship. And a celebration of the hope we have in the Mercy of Allah, our hope that He will accept our worship and attempts to know Him and Love Him better. It’s also a celebration of togetherness and family. A celebration of love and goodness.
All that is so much more than the food we get to eat.
So no, on Eid day we do not eat to make up for a month of fasting. Just like on my birthday I do not eat cake to make up for a year of not having had birthday cake. The cake is merely a symbol of the celebration of life — hopefully one that will show love, goodness, success. (Or if you do not celebrate birthdays with birthday cakes because, like my sister, you’re not into the self-servingness of it all, and the lack of any basis in religious practice, then please feel free to insert your own appropriate analogy here. 😁)
How do you celebrate Eid in your neck of the woods? What does Eid mean to you?