‘You have a festival coming up don’t you?’
Around one year ago, this is what my son’s teacher said to me as I was collecting him from school in his second week at a new school in a new city.
I was pleasantly surprised she had some inkling of the Eid that was indeed coming up in a few days time and of course I replied in the affirmative.
‘We love to hear about different celebrations in our class would you like to come in and talk about it?’
I told her that it was very nice of her to remember and to invite me, but that I would have to talk to my son about it before I could commit…
The Holidays of Eid-UL-fitr and Eid-UL-adha are officially recognised as public school holidays in New York City and in the city of Cambridge in Boston Mass. So may be I shouldn’t have been surprised that a teacher knew about Eid, in fact I should have expected it. The fact that Eid is ‘visible’ on some public school calendars is no small feat. It would have seemed impossible in my own childhood.
I have written before, a little bit about how my childhood Eids used to be. Needless to say growing up in the mid 90’s in a predominantly white and conservative area of Britain, meant that I had few Muslim friends in high school (there were two other muslim girls in my grammar school in a sea of 800)
In primary school I had none, and having myself arrived in England as a 6 year old, I was trying to figure out my immigrant identity. One thing I remember feeling about myself all those years ago – ’embarrassed’. I am not proud to admit it, but it’s true, I was embarrassed about being ‘different’. It took me a few years before I was confident enough to say ‘I don’t celebrate christmas – I celebrate Eid’ or that I was fasting due to Ramadan and had not ‘forgotten’ my lunch.
When my friends asked what is Eid? I would inevitably say ‘It’s like our Christmas’. Except it wasn’t. And neither should it be.
Now as a parent navigating the bringing up of children myself, I knew I didn’t want them to have to say ‘It’s like our Christmas’
Yes Eid is a big deal. Yes my kids love it. Yes they know the stories behind both Eids and especially this one as my son, whose name is Ismail – calls it ‘Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail Eid’ (not without a good dose of pride at the importance of his namesake!) But was he willing to talk about it with his friends at school who are all non-muslim? Was he willing to tell them this special story that he holds so dear, about a man and his son who built a structure that billions of Muslims turn toward in unity to pray five times a day?
I remembered back to my own 6 year old self, who would have been at a loss and completely unconfident to talk about Eid and its meaning to my class. I thought of my mother, who had recently enrolled in English classes, and my father, a busy junior doctor could not have left work to do this with me. They bought us up in a different time with different challenges and we are bringing up our children in a different time with completely different challenges. No I was not judging their parenting, I was comparing the child in me and the child in front of me. I wanted to know if he was proud of ‘his festival’ ? If he was proud of – himself.
‘YES! YES! Mama and can we take goodie bags and mama can we give cupcakes… and and mama are you going to come INTO my class? And TALK to my friends?’
These last two questions were said with such awe and excitement at the prospect, that it made me want to cry!
It turned out the answers to all his questions were ‘yes’ except for the cupcake part. The school would not allow any cooked or baked goods nor any sweets or chocolate. Basically anything with a list of ingredients. But we addressed that point when we came to it.
Here I was about to do this for the first time. I definitely wanted to be a ‘cool mom’ and not let him down so I enlisted the help of a ‘cool mom’ I already knew (but hadn’t met yet!) : Aiysha!
I knew she had done this before. Tell me everything I implored. Turns out, for her presentations – she had enlisted the help of a cool mom she knew and with all this combined ‘cool mom-ness’ I felt well equipped to start!
And here if you’d like to read about it, is how we talked to a class of 4-6 year olds about Eid-ul Adha :
First of all – Make your intention. I made the intention, that in these blessed first 10 days of du’l hajj we would be doing this so that these young children would learn something good and positive about Muslims. That from a very early age, we would somehow impact their perception of a muslim family celebrating a beloved festival, that we would impart some of the joy and love in our faith and share it with them.
Secondly ; Do a little planning and keep it SIMPLE.
Wear a great sparkly outfit fit for any Eid party! (The kids will delight in seeing you dressed up!)
Bring props. Children like to hold, touch, feel, smell, taste…
We took with us ~
To Touch/Try on: Kufis (a kind of skull cap worn by many muslim men – one of Ismail’s friends loved wearing this particularly colourful one from Egypt throughout our presentation – see photo below) Sparkly duppatas, a traditionally embroidered shirt, some tasbihs (prayer beads) and some pretty prayer mats.
To Smell : Attar, a kind of oil based perfume. For the children, we chose a delicious fruity smelling one. They could smell it and even roll on to their wrists and clothes if they liked
To Taste/For food : dates and pineapple lollipops – literally pineapple cut into discs with a pineapple corer (or use any shape/cookie cutter) and stick on the end of a toothpick
For Favors : try to avoid too much gimmicky plastic stuff … we finally settled on two balloons and a mini tambourine for each child.
A Handout : A simple printed explanation, mounted on colorful paper for them to take home and share with caregivers. The text of this was mainly inspired by original cool mom Unaiza, feel free to use it and modify as you wish. (I felt it important to add the part about prophets)
And because, if I were you and reading this, already quite long, post, I would want to do as least work as possible and want to know exactly what was said to the kids and when… So here goes – a rough transcript ~
Hello! I am Ismail’s mama and today Ismail and his little sister are super excited because tomorrow they will be celebrating a very special holiday called Eid-ul-adha.
The word ‘Eid’ means ‘a feast or celebration’ and you can wish people by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ to say ‘have a blessed celebration’’
Muslims believe in all the prophets of God. Who can tell me the name of a prophet? Has anyone heard the story of Moses? (Hands go up)
What about Noha and his Ark? (more hands go up)
Well this Eid is celebrated because Muslims remember another special Prophet called the Prophet Abraham or Ibrahim and his son Ishmael… who your friend Ismail is named after!
Who else has the same name as a prophet? (I had advance knowledge of the names so was able to use this question!)
Muslims ALL AROUND the world, of all different colors and who speak many different languages, including Muslims here in America who look just like you and your friends, celebrate this festival of Eid every year.
Ismail and his sister are going to celebrate too …And they can’t wait!
We are going to tell you about what we do on the day of Eid.
On the morning of Eid Ismail will wake up and have a bath to feel lovely and fresh and ready to wear his special Eid clothes, (Here your child can give out the clothes for the children to feel and wear the hats/drape the sparkly duppatas )
He will put on some special perfume …. (here you can go around to each child and ask if they would like to smell and even wear some of the attar )
He will eat something sweet for breakfast Here you could give out dates – be sure to mention that although they look like chocolate they are actually a fruit but they are JUST AS SWEET! Then watch each child actually eat a date and ask for more. (True story! Even the teacher was surprised at the success of the dates!)
Then we will all go to the mosque and on our way we ‘sing’ a special song. ALLAH is the word in the Arabic language to mean God and we sing the praises of God.
Aiysha advised me to actually say the takbir myself ‘Listen to Takbiraat of Eid by Omar M. on SoundCloud’ she said. ‘It will be great’ she said. But little did she know how much courage it took me to actually do it. I mean singing ‘Allahu-Akbar’ to a bunch of kids in a North American school? But I did it. And I am glad that they heard it, most of them probably for the first time, without the tainted filter of the media. I wished everyone in America could hear the Beautiful Takbir through innocent ears and hearts such as these children.
At the mosque all the muslims give some charity to help others who are in need. And then they pray together.
(Here you place the prayer mats on the floor)
After the prayer we hug the person next to us and say ‘EID MUBARAK’ then it’s time to go home, open gifts and eat some yummy food. Eid lasts for three days and we visit friends and give lots of Eid hugs to everyone and there will be Eid parties and all the things that go with a party. what is YOUR favorite thing about a party?
But in all of this we remember the prophet Ibrahim who was a friend of God and his son prophet Ishmael, who both loved and obeyed God.
Then ask the children if they have questions. At this point your child could distribute the favors to his or her friends (and this is when we busted out the pineapple lollipops)
The children were delighted, the teachers visibly impressed and they led the children to wish us ‘Eid Mubarak’ in unison!
I am sure all of you cool mamas and cool aunties and cool big sisters and cool teachers have done some version of this for a child you know or your own class… for those of you yet to take the plunge I hope this has inspired you to try it! We are here ready to answer any questions and of course would love feedback and suggestions on how to improve !