Lights, Gifts, Cookies! How American Families Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr

Ribbons and lights adorn the mantel of California mom Anmah Ibraham.

Strings of lights, decorations, gifts, and cookies! This weekend, Muslim people around the world will be celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, the day marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Although the religious day of Eid only lasts one day, the celebration continues, typically for three days.

Here, two American moms — one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast — share how their families celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic religion. (The other major Islamic holiday is Eid Al-Adha, which will be celebrated in October this year.)

Our East Coast mom is my friend Margaret, who lives in Pennsylvania. Our West Coast mom is Amnah Ibrahim, who blogs at the incredibly cool This Little Life of Mine, a great source for Pinterest-perfect crafts and recipes. (Can’t wait to make those star-and-moon cheddar crackers with my kids!) In fact, I met Amnah because I kept stumbling on her cool decorations on Pinterest, and she graciously shared many of the images for the slideshow below.

“During Ramadan, we fast during the day,” explains Margaret, who lives outside of Philadelphia. We stop eating before the pre-dawn prayer, for us that’s around 4 o’clock in the morning. We break the fast at around 8 p.m. when the sun goes down. We do this for a month.”

“Of course, if you have any kind of illness, or if you’re pregnant, you’re not supposed to fast,” she adds. “It’s not supposed to be a hardship. It’s about focusing on faith and family. You try to stay away from all of that stuff that’s been distracting you throughout the year, things that distract you from being a good and kind person.”

During Ramadan, Margaret avoids watching television, but does stay connected on the Internet.

“Some people don’t watch TV at all during Ramadan,” said Margaret, “although some turn it on after we break the fast in the evening. Some people will turn off Facebook, but most people want to stay connected. I think the average person still goes on the Internet, and of course if it’s a part of their work, they use the Internet.”

“Avoiding all these distractions helps to draw you back into the simple, peaceful ways of the religion. That’s what you’re supposed to focus on. It’s like your refresher course.”

On the morning of Eid, Margaret and her family will have a small, sweet food, typically involving dates, to eat while it is still dark out, before heading out to the prayer service. After the prayer service, her family stays and socializes for a while, and then comes home to celebrate with extended family and friends.

“Lots of our friends come over, not just our Muslim friends,” said Margaret. “Our neighborhood is very diverse, and we we’re happy to share our holiday. A lot of people don’t realize that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all go back to the Old Testament. There are so many things we have in common. That’s why you see so many similarities in the way different religions celebrate holidays.”

Amnah Ibrahim, mom of three girls, celebrates Eid Al-Fitr in California, where she was born and raised.

“During Ramadan, we dedicate ourselves to God, to making ourselves better Muslims, better parents, better friends, better members of our community. After all that hard work, it’s a chance to enjoy ourselves.”

“Different cultures have different foods,” said Amnah, explaining that the foods of Eid Al-Fitr celebrations will vary depending on a person’s heritage.

“Palestinians have a cookie called ma’amoul,” said Amnah, whose parents were born in Palestine. “Those are passed out to everyone who comes to visit, and you take them with you when you visit family.”

Amnah’s family, like Margaret’s, will get up early on Eid Al-Fitr, and dress in new clothes bought specifically for Eid.

“We put on our best clothes,” said Amnah. “Everyone comes dressed to the nines. All the kids are excited, and they love showing off their new outfits and hair bows. It’s just a sea of gorgeous colors.”

“We go to attend our prayer service,” said Amnah. “Every Muslim comes out of the woodwork, because it’s such a special holiday. People who don’t normally come to prayer services will come to this one. After the morning prayer, everyone socializes for a while, and the kids play. Typically, our mosque has goody bags for the kids, and moon bounces. Then everyone goes to their home family celebration.”

“Our family goes out to breakfast. That’s our little tradition. We’re starving by then!”

When Amnah and her family get home, their children tear into beautifully-wrapped gifts. Family and friends will come over, bringing food so that no one has to do all the cooking.

“We’ll have a barbecue or something for dinner,” said Amnah. “Everyone brings something to share. We socialize, and laugh, and watch the kids play with their toys. We take pictures. We’re just having fun all day. It’s a party.”

One the second and third days of Eid, there’s no prayer service to attend. Instead, her family will join a few others at a park for a picnic, or meet up at a friend’s house. Her children receive their “big present” on the first day of Eid, but Amnah makes them a gift bag of smaller presents for the second day as well.

“It means a  lot to me, to see them get so excited about it,” said Amnah. “I want them to be proud of their heritage and be excited about it. It’s really about making it special for the whole family, and for our kids.”

  • Eid Lights with Ribbon 1 of 18
    Eid Lights with Ribbon
    Lights are an important part of decorating for Eid, said Amnah. But when the lights are unplugged during daylight hours, the long strings of lights draped around the house "begin looking like spiderwebs on steroids," she jokes. Tying on ribbon and adding other trim keeps her mantel looking pretty day and night.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • Eid Gift Bags 2 of 18
    Eid Gift Bags
    Gift bags of small treats--a coloring book, bubbles, and crafts supplies--are lined up for Amnah's daughters and niece.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • New Clothes 3 of 18
    New Clothes
    "Usually, the traditional thing that you give is new clothes and new shoes," said Margaret. "Not school clothes, but fun clothes, like party dresses and sparkly shoes. Stuff that they really want, not socks and underwear. Although we might give those too," she laughed. Margaret's twin daughters will get new typically-American clothes, but here they model salwar kameez, traditional clothing of the south and central parts of Asia.

    (Photo Credit: Family photo)
  • Ramadan Moon-Sighting ‘Telescopes’ 4 of 18
    Ramadan Moon-Sighting 'Telescopes'
    The date of Eid Al-Fitr is based on the lunar calendar, and by actually sighting the moon. Amnah and her daughters made these pretend 'telescopes' out of paper towel rolls to make the event more fun.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • Multi-Media Mosque Portraits 5 of 18
    Multi-Media Mosque Portraits
    "Prior to and during the course of Ramadan, I have been engaging the girls in some crafts to help them take on qualities that embody the spirit of Ramadan," Amnah writes on her blog. However, "this particular craft was simply to get them out of my hair for a while so that I could make dinner."

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • E-Cards 6 of 18
    It's traditional to send Eid cards to friends and family, my friend Margaret said. "Now my daughters make pictures on the iPad and we use them for e-cards."

    (Photo Credit: Family photo)
  • Crescent Moon and Star Cheddar Crackers 7 of 18
    Crescent Moon and Star Cheddar Crackers
    Amnah and her daughters made these adorable star-and-moon cheddar crackers together. You can find her recipe and instructions here.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • Bean Bag Toss Board 8 of 18
    Bean Bag Toss Board
    Amnah designed this bean bag toss board, and her father cut out the shape. (Obviously the whole family is super-crafty!) She then painted it with an image of a mosque.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • Cookies! 9 of 18
    This baker used a cookie stamp to imprint "Eid Mubarak," the traditional Eid greeting, into fondant icing on these beautiful cookies.

    (Photo Credit: Pinterest)
  • Sparkly cookies! 10 of 18
    Sparkly cookies!
    Sweets and cookies are a big part of the Eid celebration, such as these beautiful stenciled cookies from the blog Ode to Inspiration.

    (Photo Credit: Ode to Inspiration)
  • Cupcakes! 11 of 18
    These luxury cupcakes by The Creative Kitchen look almost too good to eat. Almost.

    (Photo Credit: The Creative Kitchen)
  • Mehndi 12 of 18
    Mehndi, a temporary design painted onto the hands or feet with henna, is a traditional part of celebrations.

    (Photo Credit: Flickr/Birmingham Culture)
  • ‘The smell of fresh henna makes me think of parties and weddings.’ 13 of 18
    'The smell of fresh henna makes me think of parties and weddings.'
    Margaret does mehndi on her own hands, shown here.

    (Photo Credit: Family photo)
  • Perfect Pedicure 14 of 18
    Perfect Pedicure
    Mehndi can also be done on the feet, accented here with a perfectly gorgeous blue pedicure.

    (Photo Credit: Pinterest))
  • Colors and light 15 of 18
    Colors and light
    "Traditionally, decoration are home-made," said Margaret. "They're things you make with your children, as a family." Here, tissue paper "stained glass" decorations adorn a window.

    (Photo Credit: Muslim Learning Garden)
  • What’s a party without a goody bag? 16 of 18
    What's a party without a goody bag?
    Amnah said that her mosque typically hands out treat bags to kids after the morning prayer service, and she also makes some for her children and guests.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mine)
  • Family Fun 17 of 18
    Family Fun
    Amnah's daughter helps organize treats to put in goody bags for her friends and cousins.

    (Photo Credit: This Little Life of Mind)
  • Eid Mubarak 18 of 18
    Eid Mubarak
    The traditional greeting at Eid (pronounced Eed is "Eid Mubarak." Here, Amnah's finished mantel includes the greeting spelled out above festive lights.

    (Photo Credit: The Little Life of MIne)

(Image Credit: This Little Life of Mine)

Recent posts from Joslyn:
Update on Paul Corby: Autistic Man’s Quest for a Heart Goes Viral
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Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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