Eid traditions: Ittar, bangles and prayer

Stories from The Book

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I hear my 5 a.m. alarm blaring, and I reach to press the snooze button. It seems like any regular day when I can’t get myself to wake up, yet for some reason, today is different. In a bit of a daze, and in an attempt to figure out what I am forgetting, I get myself to sit up.

As I scan my room, my eyes are met with an array of traditional desi outfits laid out on my desk. They are new, filled with gorgeous stitch work and of some of the brightest colors. Next to them are bangles, color-coded to match every outfit, as well as jewelry and ittar, a scent that my father has put on me every Eid that I can remember.

It is Eid morning, and waking to remember this is perhaps one of the greatest surprises that I could have experienced. As I begin to get out of bed to prepare for the day’s upcoming festivities, I hear my door burst open, and my brother comes in. He is the first person to wish me “Eid Mubarak.”

Eid al-Fitr is a holiday celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan. After going 30 days without eating or drinking, Muslims all over the world feast, rejoicing over their commitment and success in fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam.

However, Eid al-Fitr is not the only Eid holiday that Muslims celebrate. Eid al-Adha comes later in the Islamic calendar, at the end of Hajj, and it commemorates the decision Prophet Ibrahim made, agreeing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Ultimately, God allows Ibrahim to sacrifice a goat instead and keep his son safe. For this reason, on Eid al-Adha, we sacrifice goat meat and celebrate Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to faith. Both Eids serve as my favorite times of the year and are reminders of the traditions associated with my faith that I enjoy and that bring me peace.

This Eid al-Fitr, I hastily get into the shower and get ready. Eid Namaaz begins promptly at 8 a.m., and with the commute, I would have to be done getting ready soon. While I am notorious for showing up late to almost everything, I make sure to be on time for these prayers. Eid Milan, the exchange of hugs and kisses after prayer, is one of my favorite traditions. The days of Eid and all the celebrations that come with it, I would never want to miss.

I leave my room to go downstairs, realizing, not surprisingly, that I am the last one in my family to be ready. My mom hands me an envelope with my Eidi, a gift given on the holidays of Eid by relatives. I look up to find that my brother has already received his and is happily counting away what he has received. I decide to save my parents’ Eidi to count along the other envelopes I would receive throughout the day. Before we leave, my father quickly spritzes ittar on me, a tradition I cherish — I finally feel ready to officially begin celebrating Eid.

We get into the car and travel to the hall where Eid prayer is to be held. I am excited to see many of my friends, for the traditional prayers and for the doughnuts to be had that morning. I look at the henna on my hand that has just been done last night. I check the mirror to make sure my makeup, even though it has been done quickly, still looks good.

Growing up, I was one of the only Muslims I knew in the schools I attended, and a lot of the events and holidays that I celebrated were foreign to those around me. I spent time wondering why we had days off for Christmas but not Eid. If I missed school to celebrate one of these holidays, people would ask me why. They questioned why I was wearing henna on my hands or what I smelled of, referring to the leftover smell of ittar I still carried.

When I was younger, I would lie to cover up these absences. Excuses and fibs piled up: I was sick or I had to go to a wedding. As I grew older, this began to change, and I attempted to educate people on the traditions that I practiced, to see the beauty in the religious practices that I also saw.

The outfit changes, the many gatherings, my community, gifts and the celebration that surrounds every Eid are just some of the reasons that I am so fond of this holiday. They serve as a reminder of the value that I put in my faith, and the stories behind the various traditions empower me.

Zobia Quraishi writes the Wednesday column on being Muslim and first-generation Indian American. Contact her at [email protected]