When Shariq Ghani and Kulsoom Karakoc were growing up in Houston, one of the most important holidays in their Muslim faith was not recognized by the city’s school district. But now, for the first time in its history, HISD is officially recognizing Eid ul-Fitr as an official spring holiday, joining Good Friday and Yom Kippur on the district calendar.
The festival celebrates the end of Ramadan, an Islamic holy month that is observed by Muslims worldwide through fasting, prayer, community gathering and feasting. During the festival, people visit friends and family, exchange gifts, bake special pastries and honor deceased loved ones at graves. The festivities also include a recitation of the Koran and a short trip to Mecca if possible.
Thousands of Houstonians descended on NRG Center to begin the Eid celebrations this morning, the first day after the end of the 30-day fasting and prayer ritual known as Ramadan. The throngs of believers dressed in crisp clothes from around the world punctuated the diversity of the city’s diverse Muslim community.
Eid Houston organizers kept those traditions in mind as they planned the event, says Jennifer Kapral, Asia Society’s director of education and outreach. “Eid is a time of joy,” she says. “People visit with each other, exchange presents and have sweets.” Guests of all ages enjoyed a lineup of beautiful performances and educational activities including ebru (water marbling) and Arabic calligraphy demonstrations. They also created greeting cards and learned about influences from Islamic lands at the Silk Road station.
Those who attended the Mahmoud Eid Houston celebrations gathered in a festive atmosphere despite tragedies taking place in the Muslim world, including in Sudan where staccato blasts of gunfire rang out across Khartoum’s skyline. In Yemen, Saudi officials and Houthi rebels began talks aimed at ending the country’s four-year war. But tensions flared this week at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which Muslims share with Israel.
The event was free and open to the public. The festival’s goal is to showcase the rich culture of Houston’s Muslim community and inspire others to learn more about Islam. Organizers hope to continue the tradition next year and encourage people of all faiths and backgrounds to participate in Eid Houston 2020.
As many Muslims worldwide mark Eid al-Fitr, a holiday noting the end of the divine month of Ramadan, they are gathering for prayer, family, food as well as enjoyable. Eid is a yearly event for numerous Muslims, who generally spruce up and attend communal prayers at their local mosque, listen to a khutuba (sermon) or offer zakat al-fitr, which is a form of charity provided to the bad.
Traditionally, the Muslim-American community has actually held Eid celebrations in parks as well as personal places to celebrate the holiday. However this year, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and concerns of Ebola, some community participants have actually been forced to downsize or cancel occasions. Despite the challenges, some people have actually located imaginative ways to honor the tradition of Eid with good friends and neighbors.