September 09, 2010

Sunset is sweeping the world from east to west, bringing Ramadan to an end and heralding the joyous Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, a holiday bearing a similar emotional weight to the Chinese New Year or the Christian Christmas. Once again this year, family and friends will come together over large parties, children, gifts, and lots and lots of food.

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, its dates shift from year to year relative to the Gregorian calendar. This year, this particular Eid has an unfortunate coincidence of dates.

Respecting this coincidence, in western countries the celebrants will do their best to keep their celebrating low-key and indoors, even though on this day, prayer and celebration alike are usually conducted in large, open spaces. (Imagine having to do the same with Christmas!) In countries where the Muslim religion predominates, the celebrations will be proportionately more visibly joyous. In many of them, Eid ul-Fitr is a national holiday.

The circumstances are ripe for misunderstanding: but we can choose instead to understand and to appreciate these special community holidays, no matter the form they take. We all partake in them. How can we not, when we are all humans alike, with friends and with family? So why not focus on a celebration of a special time of year with family and friends instead of on an unfortunate coincidence of dates?

Should you happen to hear of celebration in the news or see public celebration over the next three days, please remember: it is Eid, after all.

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