Growing up as a non-Muslim, I have fond memories of celebrating Christmas, even though my family were not religious. We would prepare for the day long before, setting up a Christmas tree and decorating the house with garlands and shiny baubles. For my first Eid as a new Muslim, I had a great sense of excitement as the day approached, as well as a melancholic feeling at the thought of the blessed month of Ramadhan finishing and the resumption of normal life. But the day itself was an anti-climax in the sense that I wasn’t able to recreate the magical feeling of my childhood. Firstly because I wasn’t with family, but also because I didn’t prepare for it in the same way as I used to do for Christmas. Yes, I did bake some biscuits, and I loved the early morning prayers in the mosque, the chants of “Allahu Akbar” and the sight of children in their best attire, but I didn’t know what to do with myself the rest of the day. Now, with a toddler daughter who will probably remember this year’s Ramadhan and Eid as her first ones, I am determined to make it a magical period for her, and to create family traditions that we can reproduce every year.
To welcome the last iftar of Ramadhan and the start of the holiday, I like the idea of creating a peaceful, spiritual atmosphere with candles and flowers. It is very easy to create patterned candle-holders with glass jars and paint, and it can make a nice activity to do with the children during the long days of fasting, especially as Ramadhan falls in the summer holidays in the UK this year. I love Moroccan lanterns, and I have found that tea glasses work great with tea candles. I also make an effort with table decorations: even a patterned napkin and a nice set of plates can create a special atmosphere fit for the Arabian nights!
In my opinion, the morning of Eid should be child-orientated: unlike Eid-ul-Adha, when the first day of celebrations is often devoted to the sacrifice of the sheep and the preparation of the meat, Eid-ul-Fitr is all about rejoicing and relaxing after a month of fasting and restrictions. There are many ways to make your house ready for such a joyous occasion: garlands, balloons, bunting and other baubles. You can make an “Eid Mubarak” bunting with triangles cut out from fabric or crepe paper – that’s another afternoon of activities for the kids sorted! I found a large selection of ideas for making your own decorations online, using cheap materials and staying in line with Muslim culture, rather than using Christmas baubles.
The same goes for food: there are lots of accessories and inspirational ideas available online to make your own special Eid cakes and biscuits: star-shaped cookies, fondant decorations representing mosques, calligraphy written with an icing pen… And of course, an abundance of halal sweets! I’m a real sucker for healthy food, but Eid is the one occasion when I will allow my children (and myself) to enjoy a sugary treat. Allah has forbidden us to fast on the days of Eid; and since Ramadhan is all about fasting and not midnight feasts (yes, I’m looking at you, demanding husbands), Eid is the day to create a sumptuous meal to be remembered. Of course, I don’t suggest you spend the day in the kitchen – many treats can be bought, or prepared in advance.
Eid is very much about sharing food and joy with your close ones and the wider Muslim community, and for this reason I adore Eid cards. Not being able to spend Eid with my family, I have at least the pleasure of selecting a beautiful card to send them, with pictures of our celebration. There is such a wide selection available online and in Islamic shops nowadays that it would be a shame not to use them: calligraphy, crescent moons, pictures of mosques… You can also make your own! To exchange gifts, I find that a detail such as using gift paper rather than presenting it in a bag is a thoughtful touch, and there is nothing more enjoyable than the sight of children shredding the paper to find out what is inside.
Lastly, I want to assure you that creating a wonderful, special celebration doesn’t need to come at a high price. You will find that you cherish the decorations you and your children have made with your own hands more than standard ones, and you can keep them for the years to come. A beautiful house is not about expensive furniture and fancy decorations, but rather about creating a welcoming atmosphere and adding personal touches that make you feel at home.
Cleo is an artist and writer based in London. She is currently studying towards a PhD and in her free time she likes cooking and reading with her little girl, as well as reading SISTERS!