Shariq Ali and Ambreen Hasan organized the celebration to teach their community about Eid and Ramadan.
By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Once a year, Muslims around the world spend a month fasting during the holiday of Ramadan. They break that fast on Eid ul-Fitr, a day on which they can enjoy a lovely celebration with friends and family.
This year, the Westwood Library was the setting for what might be the town’s first public Eid celebration. All were welcome, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to celebrate and learn all about the holiday and religion.
And celebrate they did.
Person after person poured into the community room at the Westwood Library until it was filled to the brim. The celebration began at six o’clock and by 6:10, the entire room was inundated. Guests instantly began exploring the party’s fun activities.
A craft table offered children a chance to create paper lanterns.
Many guests enjoyed getting some temporary henna tattoos, though some of the more impatient children had trouble standing still and waiting. “You have to stand still for 15 minutes,” Laura Bent told one of her daughters. “It’s like getting your nails done.”
All enjoyed children’s books placed on the tables, each themed around the celebration of Ramadan. Titles included “It’s Ramadan Curious George,” “The White Nights of Ramadan,” “My First Ramadan,” and “R is for Ramadan.”
In the midst of the celebration, Shariq Hassan took the time to explain Ramadan to guests and answer some commonly asked questions. “We appreciate you joining us for the end of Ramadan,” he began. “You’re friends. And neighbors who are fasting [for thirty days], you can see their energy going down,” he said.
“Fasting brain is real!” somebody shouted from the audience, drawing laughs from everyone.
“People ask: ‘Do you lose weight?’ No, not in my experience,” he chuckled, beginning to answer common questions. Some tips for non-Muslim friends included “don’t eat that juicy cheeseburger next to them” and “be mindful that they can’t eat until sundown.” A guest asked if there was an exact geographic location for sundown. “There is,” Hassan replied. “We use the Apple weather app. If you live in Norway or Sweden, you have a problem.” The audience laughed.
This Eid celebration is not Anne Baker’s first rodeo. Baker has spent much of her life exploring different religions. Her first one was years ago. “I love the celebration of joy in religion. So often we hear ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that.’ It’s a nice change of pace,” said Baker. She enjoyed some of the great food, like baklava, samosas, chickpea salad, and dates. “One thing I thought was great was to put the children’s books around. The information was accessible because it’s at a children’s level,” she said. “How did you think I knew you had to start with the dates?”
Aiden, age 2, and Riya, 5, enjoyed their time at the celebration, trying the food and getting henna tattoos. Their mom, Sangha, also loved the celebration. “I loved meeting everyone,” she said. Her husband, Neil Basak, loved the learning aspect of the celebration. “I’m learning about the culture, about its values, about how and why it’s celebrated,” he said.
For those who have been celebrating Eid since they were born, it served as a first chance to share the holiday with others. Zubeda Hasan loves the holiday and was excited to see so many people enjoying the celebration. “Most people are being introduced to Eid today,” she said. “I love that. I love sharing knowledge with people.”
The night was nothing but joyous for all attendees. Neighbors came knowing nothing about Eid, and left with a much better understanding of the religion, food, and other cultural customs behind the holiday.