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Eid: 'We have more in common with one another than that which divides us, so let’s celebrate together'





Teacher Fatima Patel invites her fellow Bishop’s Stortford residents, Muslim or non-Muslim, to celebrate Eid with her...

At the end of this week, it will be the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, or simply Eid, celebrated by Muslims worldwide to mark the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr literally means 'holiday of breaking the fast'.

But we don't know yet what day Eid will be. This may sound strange, as Christmas is always celebrated on December 25, but the day of Eid is determined by the sighting of the new moon. This happens every 29 or 30 days, so Eid may be on Friday or Saturday. For me, this uncertainty adds to the excitement.

Bishop's Stortford resident Fatima Patel
Bishop's Stortford resident Fatima Patel

For weeks ahead of Eid I always speculate what day it might fall on. I will google newspaper articles, read astronomical news and, as a mathematician, I will look at the trends from previous years and draw conclusions.

Unfortunately, in the UK, due to the constant cloud coverage, moon sightings with the naked eye are far from easy, so we await news from neighbouring countries, where sightings are more commonplace. Some countries even have moon sighting parties the night before Eid. I have yet to attend one of these.

So how is Eid celebrated? In my opinion, it’s celebrated in a very similar way to Christmas.

Fatima Patel with husband Imran Patel and their daughters Hawaa Dhila, 11, and Safaa Dhila, 6
Fatima Patel with husband Imran Patel and their daughters Hawaa Dhila, 11, and Safaa Dhila, 6

At Christmas, practising Christians attend mass, where a reading from the Bible and prayers are heard. This usually takes place on Christmas Eve, at midnight or before. Similarly, on the morning of Eid, Muslims attend the mosque, where prayers take place in congregation.

During Christmas we are encouraged to be charitable and to help those in need. Here in Bishop’s Stortford there are a number of initiatives to help those less fortunate to have a memorable Christmas. Similarly, as an act of charity, Muslims on Eid pay an obligatory sum of money to the poor and the needy. I also gift my neighbours with boxes of edible goodies. They always appreciate sampling foreign foods they have not heard of.

At Christmas we greet one another with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas”. During Eid celebrations we say “Eid Mubarak”. Mubarak translates as 'blessed', while Eid in Arabic means 'feast', 'festival' or 'celebration'. Eid Mubarak is interpreted simply as ‘blessed celebration’.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Christmas is sharing gifts. Giving and receiving them is also a large part of Eid. Although gifts are not displayed under a tree like at Christmas, the morning of Eid is spent unwrapping presents and hearing the joy come, especially from delighted children who have received what they have wished for. Unfortunately, these days I give way more gifts than I ever receive.

Fatima and Imran's daughters Hawaa Dhila, 11, and Safaa Dhila, 6
Fatima and Imran's daughters Hawaa Dhila, 11, and Safaa Dhila, 6

Christmas is known as the period of indulging in good food and drink. This is identical to Eid. However, this is perhaps amplified because following a month of fasting you can imagine the joy of eating freely on Eid day.

Food, family and friends coming together to eat is my favourite part of Eid day. A traditional Christmas dinner consists of turkey, roast potatoes and vegetables. A traditional Eid lunch in my family is flavourful biryani served alongside other rich curries. This is always accompanied by plenty of sweet treats (Eid al-Fitr is also known as the Festival of Sweets).

Whether identifying as a Christian or Muslim, believer or non-believer, celebrating Christmas or Eid, we are all humans celebrating life. We have more in common with one another than that which divides us, so let’s celebrate together.

Although I mentioned that Eid is a celebration for Muslims, this year I invite you, Muslim or non-Muslim, to celebrate Eid with me. Every year I join in with Christmas festivities and thoroughly enjoy that time of year, so this year let's enjoy Eid festivities together.

While I don’t expect you to visit the mosque or attempt to make a biryani (that isn’t easy even for me), I would like you to join in with Eid by saying 'Eid Mubarak' to each other. Let’s share our celebrations, let's share the joy.



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