Yesterday afternoon, I had a lovely conversation with a mother here in our community. In the VS Mom’s Facebook community, I asked if there was anyone willing to speak to me about the new change and she immediately agreed to do so. Valley Stream Mom Iram, from Bangladesh, stepped up.
I remember meeting her at Ralph’s Ices one afternoon on Rockaway Avenue with her adorable children. Although we may practice different religions, what unites us is that we both care about the well being of our family, safety of our children, and community.
Last year, the three school boards decided to add the Eid holiday onto the calendar so the students wouldn’t have to choose between taking end of year exams and celebrating the holiday in tradition. I applaud the families that stepped forward to make change.
While I knew about Ramadan, I had never heard about Eid-ul-fitr which marks the end of the Muslim community’s holiest month of the year, the Islamic month of “Ramadan” also known as the 9th month of the Muslim calendar.
Iram explains it like this:
During Ramadan, observers are expected to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures from dawn to dusk. Removing these comforts from daily routine is intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality, and charity and to purify the body and mind. Muslims are also expected to abstain from impurities such as gossip and cursing. While most people know of Ramadan for the fasting, charity is also an important part of this holy month and Muslims will often make donations to the poor during this time.”
Iram shared with me how peaceful fasting can be especially when your children are pressing your buttons. It helped her remain calm where she thought out her response to the children. She said when you fast it’s like a reminder when you feel the exhaustion as a constant reminder of how to handle things, show compassion, be charitable and how to be virtuous.
In Ramadan, the meal we have before sunrise is called “Suhoor”, and the meal during which the fast is broken is called “Iftar” which is a feast we look forward to after a day of restrain. Muslims often gather with friends and family to break their fast during the Iftar meal which varies based on the ethnic background. People from Southeast Asia typically begin their Iftar meal with appetizers such as pakoras and samosas.
Groups excused from fasting are the sick, elderly, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, women on their period, and those traveling. Many children wish to try a day or two of fasting, often for bragging rights.
When she explained this next part to me, I found myself very curious. Last night, I got out of bed to try and find the moon. Normally, it shines directly into my window. However, last night, I couldn’t see it between my 75 year old trees. I missed it, but I’ll be sure to go out before bed to take a look tonight.
The end of the holy month of Ramadan is marked by the holiday of “Eid-ul-fitr.” The exact day of this holiday is traditionally determined by the sighting of the new moon as Muslims follow a lunar calendar (which is why Eid falls on a different day each year on the Gregorian calendar). However, Muslims are increasingly relying on astronomical calculations and observatories, leading to a more uniform date.
It is not uncommon to see different communities celebrating Eid on two different days based on their method of determination of the beginning of the new Islamic month. This slight variation does not impact on the festivities, because the celebration of Eid is often continued for 2-3 days. The day of Eid starts with prayers at the mosque, followed by visiting relatives and friends and feasting on tasty traditional meals all day. Muslims wear new clothes and children receive gifts of toys, clothing, and money. It is certainly a joyous day looked forward by all Muslims.
Isn’t it amazing what you can learn about your fellow neighbors when you create an open dialogue? Both of my children have friends in school who talk about their homelands and traditions. When they go off to college or move away from home as adults, I am confident that they will be sensitive to different types of cultures and religious thanks to the various cultures represented here in Valley Stream.
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