As with all good things, the Holy month of Ramadan is coming to an end. After a 29/30 day period, (depending on when the New Moon is sighted by Muslim authorities in their various nations) the end of this month of abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual anything is coming to a close. Of course Ramadan is more than just fasting. It is a month of spiritual reflection, sacrificing your ego’s wants and needs, charity for solidarity for those with less, and as Muslim’s see it a time where “the gates of Hell are closed and the door to Heaven is open” so any extra good deeds during this time will be accepted by Allah (God in Arabic) and sins may be forgiven. So it only makes sense that the end of this month should be celebrated and is one of the two major religious holidays in Islam- Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr (or Eid Seghir in Morocco) is known as the “Little Holiday” can be a day, two day, or even three day celebration. Families travel far distances to reunite and feast in recognition of the end of the month of self-sacrifice. The day begins with a special prayer and making donations to the poor and needing (the act of zakat-ul-fitr) before coming together with one’s family to gather, enjoy delicious meals and sweets, dress in new stylish clothes for the occasion and for the children receiving a gift (or more!).
In my experience, I’ve had the honor of celebrating Eid al-Fitr a few different ways over the past few years. But I’ll share with you my first Eid al-Fitr, as with most things, the first of anything is often the most impacting. In my first Ramadan, I travelled to Morocco all throughout the month and ended Ramadan in the company of members of my first host family in the first town in Morocco I ever lived it. The memory of that morning is hazy (after so many days of fasting in Moroccan summer, days blur) but I distinctly remember the sense of calm and silence I felt waking up that morning. I completed my first Ramadan. I cried because it was beautiful and humbling. I cried because I couldn’t believe I could do it and I cried because I did.
Practicing Ramadan was by far the hardest thing I have purposefully put my combined body, mind, and soul through, but my God it was worth it. Not only did I prove to myself, I am more than my basic human need to survive by eating and drinking. I learned that depriving myself of the substance to life for a specific time frame developed my character and understanding of the connection between my needs, wants, and emotions immensely. It also gave me a connection to a society, to a religion, to a people, to a community that I do not come from nor share any obvious ties to other than my presence and active participation in their holiest of months. If I can be truly honest, I have never felt that level of spirituality and solidarity with a collective people even with those I share ethnic ties with. I am so very grateful.
My emotional tears soon became smiles and laughter as I felt so much joy to be surrounded by family. The family I wasn’t borne into but yet still accepted me into theirs without a second thought. The family that was patient with my broken and struggling attempts to communicate in Arabic the first three months but would giggle and rejoice when I learned a new word.
I wish I had photos from that day where I dressed up (and was dressed up in family member’s caftans and djellabas like their own full size American doll) and danced and ate..and ate…but, unfortunately, my food coma from the feasting left me forgetful of capturing the moment….yet maybe that’s a good thing. In a time where we tend to overshare and forget the moment because we’re too busy getting the image, I’m grateful for a beautiful moment that is intimate and shared only with those with me that day.
I hope you enjoyed my reflections on my first Ramadan & celebrating Eid-al Fitr! If you’re interested in visiting Morocco during Ramadan next year or would like to fast alongside Moroccans and would like me to be your friend and cheerleader, sign up for our *Morocco Beauty Journey* that will run from May 7th – May 16th 2019. No obligation to fast but for the curious, this tour will be a wonderful dive into respectfully observing Ramadan as a Non-Muslim and a time to quietly and reflectively explore Morocco through its Muslim customs and traditions.
Peace, love & couscous,
Brenda Garcia Jaramillo