Toddler Thursday: What’s Your Religious Holiday? We Call Ours “Eid”

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How to get toddlers involved and excited about a holiday when you are strung out from months of lack of sleep, the twins can’t stay up past 7:30 p.m., and are too little to really understand anyway?

First, some background on this holiday I’m talking about. Last week, millions of people across North America celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. There are two Eid holidays that occur within a few months of each other. The second one, Eid-Ul-Adha, marks the pilgrimmage to Mecca which millions of faithful followers perform each year.

These days, many Muslim families with young children are looking for ways to adapt the customs and rituals of Eid celebrations from “back home” and adding a North American twist.

Eid is usually celebrated by dressing in new clothes, going to early morning community prayers, visiting friends and neighbours, and noshing on delicious spreads of sweet, salty, and fried foods that you normally wouldn’t eat all in the same day! Growing up, the excitement of Eid was always in dressing up in cultural clothes, going to “Open Houses” where the aforementioned food would be laid out, and getting small amounts of cash in envelopes from older relatives and family friends, called an “Eidee”.

The first couple of Eids we dressed our little ones up in cute outfits, skipped the community prayer due to it being a logistical nightmare, and instead visited close family for lunch and dinner. When they became toddlers, I searched online for trendy, printable decorations to hang up on our fireplace to make things festive. They were only 2.5 years old that summer, but old enough to get excited about parties and Christmas. I found some adorable, free printables for Ramadan and Eid banners at Sakina Design.

Our first EId banner
“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid)

For the stairs, I wrapped thick, multi-coloured ribbon from Michaels around as you would tinsel. And of course, there were the gold star decorations which I bought from Christmas clearances past. (Anyone else buy shiny Christmas decorations and use them for other holidays?) When Mister and Missy came home, their reaction was “Wow, niiice” and “Star!” By the next day they didn’t take notice.

For Eid Year 3, I invested in some Eid-inspired cookie cutters from an online Ramadan and Eid decoration store called Eidway. They come in the shape of a five- and eight-point stars, moon crescent, lantern, and mosque, which are all recognizable symbols of the faith.

Eid and Ramadan cookie cutters by Eidway
Unique cookie cutters shapes by Eidway

Since Mister and Missy were experienced play dough shapers, they loved making shapes with the cookie cutters.

Twin Bakers hard at work
Twin Bakers hard at work
Mastering the cookie at three years old
Mastering the cookie at three years old

This year now that the twins are four and a half years old, Mister and Missy were very excited about making Eid cookies. The only problem was, lack of time! Although they are off school since it’s summer, we are still working full-time, and it’s been hard to find enough time (and energy!) to start the four step process of making the dough, rolling and doing the shapes, baking the cookies, then decorating. It took us a few days, but we managed to hold a few sessions of cookie cutting and decorating. All for four cookies which they get to eat all by themselves. (the rest I set aside and decorated for friends and family)

Other things I had planned which I didn’t get to do was make sheer korma (traditional sweet vermicelli in sweet milk dessert), make cookies for more neighbours, put up more Eid decorations including lights, and doing some craft activities. Oh well there’s always next Eid!

How have you incorporated a unique holiday or celebration into your family lives? What new traditions have you started (or are thinking about starting) as your children get older?

Ambereen is a proud Canadian-Muslim MoM of 4 year old BG twins. She is already making plans for fun activities to do with the kids for the next religious holiday. You can find her blogging at 2CuteBlog.

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Do You Celebrate Christmas?

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It’s hard not to get swept up in the ‘Christmas spirit’ when you are immersed in a winter wonderland that lights up every December with magical lights, Christmas carollers, bustling shopping centres and generally happy people.

Every year around this time people ask me if I celebrate Christmas. My answer is this: I celebrate it on a social level – not on a personal level.

My family is from a Muslim country where Christmas is observed by less than 2% of the population. December 25th is a national holiday in Pakistan, but not for the same reason as it is here in Canada. There, it is the birthday of founder Quaid-e-Azam, who along with Mahatma Gandhi, carved the country out of the Indian subcontinent. The major holidays in the Pakistani calendar are the two Eids: one commemorating the end of Ramadan, the other for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

My hubby – Mr. Mama – hails from British Guyana where Muslims, Christians and Hindus celebrate their other’s festivals. His experience with Christmas is different from mine. A Guyanese Christmas includes many of the Canadian elements, plus a traditional meal of pepper pot (delicious sweet beef stew) and festive Caribbean music.

Growing up Canadian, we were introduced to local and Gaelic Christmas traditions by our ‘Chachi’, an Irish lady who married our uncle. As kids, my cousins and I would go over to their place on Christmas Day to decorate their tree, watch holiday specials on TV, gorge on candy and junk food, then proceed to eat a whole turkey dinner complete with the trimmings. It was an annual event, and lots of fun. Oh and it was kids only which added to the excitement! I suspect our parents were more than happy to have us out of their hair.

Back at home, my parents never put up a Christmas tree, and I don’t remember ever asking them for one. It was enough for me to go over to Chacha and Chachi’s and celebrate it in their home. I was content with watching TV specials throughout December, getting gifts for friends (if I wanted to, no pressure there), and wishing people ‘Happy Christmas’, Irish-style.

Once we all grew up, things went back to December 25th being another day except that businesses and stores are closed and people stayed home from work. Often, our family and friends would take this opportunity to host dinner parties for no other reason than to get together. These dinner parties did not have any special themes, nor were they held in homes decorated for the holiday. The food was always served buffet style with an Indo-Pakistani menu.

Other years, we would travel during the holidays as far away as India & Pakistan for a few weeks, or as close as Toronto for a few days to visit relatives. I remember being very surprised when we visited New Delhi one year in December and saw inflatable Santa Clauses all over. The lack of snow and other North American symbols made me forget it was the holidays and that many people in India celebrate Christmas.

One of my favourite things about the holiday break was when non-celebrating friends who had moved away came back to visit their families between Christmas and New Years. It was a great opportunity meet up because, like me, these friends were free on the 25th!

In my opinion, it’s not about whether you have a traditional feast and open presents on December 25th. It’s about the mood during the entire month leading up to the holidays. Over the years, I’ve learned all the non-religious Christmas carols by heart, sang at old age homes during the holiday season, and wrapped gifts for less fortunate children. Last but not least, I’ve shopped to my heart’s content up to and including Boxing Week… scooping up deals for myself to last the whole year. Why not? I was single then.

Now that we are responsible adults, we will share gifts with our close neighbours and exchange cards with office colleagues. I considered getting gifts for the educators at Missy and Missy’s daycare, but it’s hard to think of what to get so I think we will just stick with cards decorated by the little ones themselves.

I’ve embraced the best of the festive spirit of the country in which I live. All without compromising my personal beliefs and values, and without the pressure or stress that comes with finding the perfect gift or hosting an elaborate feast.

Mister and Missy are born in Canada to parents of the same faith yet different cultural backgrounds. They like their Guyanese curry and roti, Indo-Pak tandoori chicken, Christmasey eggnog, and Quebecois French fries. Now the question is: how will they view Christmas when they grow up?

It’s only one week away from Christmas Day. What will you be doing on December 25th? And do you think Christmas is mainly for the kids?

Happy Holidays!

2Cuteblog lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and their three year old twins. You can read about their multicultural adventures on her personal blog at http://2cute.intiaz.com or follow her on twitter @2cuteblog

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