Saturday, 2 July 2016

Navigating Iftars And Eid As An Interfaith Family - Kristina ElSayed

This is the nineteenth post in the Interfaith Ramadan 2016 series. Articles written by contributors from diverse faiths and none will published every day throughout the month of Ramadan.

Every holiday, after everything is said and done, the gifts are opened, the food is eaten, the decorations are away and we have settled back into daily life, I debrief with my people.

What did you love? What did you hate? What was disappointing? What was amazing? It's something I’ve been doing ever since that first year I did Magda’s workbook* about making Christmas the best ever.

I do it for birthdays, Easter, Halloween and Ramadan. Every holiday, we try to be more involved with extended family and friends, inviting them over, planning movie nights, and including them in our traditions whenever possible.

Every year, my people tell me that they wish we could have more iftars with guests. They want to be those people who are invited for dinner each week and who host friends at our house. They want that buzz of excitement that comes with celebrating with others in a comfortable, loving environment.

In the past, we’ve invited Mr & Mrs Imam and their family and they would usually have us over. Another night we would close family friends and their children. Last year we started inviting Magda and her boys.

This year, Mr & Mrs Imam don’t live nearby anymore. They moved away a few months ago. JJ and her people were all booked up and the other friend, who was part of our lives for a very long time, has broken up with us.

So, one night when we were out to dinner, before fasting began, I broached the topic. Who would we invite this year?


What about your friends Mr. Fox?
What about that other group of friends?
No, it would be too weird.
What about your Muslim friends?
Uh, No. I don’t know them that well.

Kate, want to invite anyone?
What about your one friend?

Pea, what do you think about inviting your friend and her parents?
That would be weird, Mom.
Um…What about your other friend?
They are out of town for the summer. So, No.

Khaled, how about we invite your friends?
Sigh. Okay, how about we invite ALL of my girlfriends and their people?

Iftar? Inviting people?
Oh, I don’t know.
It would be great to introduce some friends to our tradition.  Maybe they don’t really know what we do during Ramadan.
Great idea.
Can we plan it?

Ramadan begins and we have no plans except for attending the community iftars at The Little Mosque Down the Street. I’m afraid the month will pass in a sleepy, slow moving blur and we won’t have hosted anyone for dinner.

The next weekend, I ask again, and we carefully consider a few different families. No plans are made. I’m frustrated about the lack of decision-making. My family is desperate to be social butterflies…but they are social introverts. 

The second week of Ramadan passes and I ask again. We decide on a family. Khaled is friendly with the husband; Pea is friendly with one of the daughters. We go through a lot of hoops to get the phone number of the lady of the family (who I’ve never met) so I can introduce myself, issue the invitation and plan the evening. I invite Magda and her boys to come over another night, and consider making it a big dinner party with all of my girlfriends. Because of the scheduling and different snafus, the girls never got invited. 

This year, we hosted twice, we were invited out once and we’ve attended 3 of the 4 Saturdays at The Little Mosque Down the Street.

Today is day 27 of the 30 days. In 4 days, it will be Eid. We are planning on going to prayers early, seeing all the people there, praying, visiting the food trucks (food carts in the street), and spending the time at the event location for as long as possible. Sometimes we have made specific plans to leave town, other times, like this year when the Eid falls in the middle of the work week, we just go home and figure out something to do.

I’d like to make a plan to do something with other people in our community who, like us, end up celebrating alone. It’s difficult though because I don’t know who is alone. It always seems like everyone has plans. They have plans that include their friends and their families. Not us.

One of the hardest parts of being in an interfaith family, especially when your extended religious family isn’t geographically close, is that you are left to celebrate with just your nuclear family. I hope this makes sense. For us, our Muslim family members live far away. If it were an option, I’d love to travel to be with them every year on the Eid. But as it isn't possible, and we have never been able to celebrate successfully with our non-Muslim family, we just don’t.

I will continue to debrief each year with my people, asking what they liked, what they loves, what they hated and what we should change. I hope that maybe, by continuing to do this each year they will be able to help craft our Ramadan into something delightfully special. Something that gives them memories that they will pass on to their children and traditions they will want to continue long after I’m gone.

Kristina ElSayed is a mother of three, a wife, jeweler, writer, and creator of The Wudu Cling.  She creates empowerment jewelry for people of all faiths and spiritual paths at VianneFere and writes about raising Muslim children as a non-Muslim parent.  You can read more at My Islamic Life and AltMuslimah. Kristina can be reached through her website or on twitter @myislamiclife

Kristina previously wrote Fasting For Faith, contributed to What Can I Do If I'm Not Fasting? and The Side Entrance of Religion

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