Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How about some Hannukah paper for that Eid gift?

Eid ul Adha was upon last week (or as we refer to it in Gaza-the meat Eid-)and this time it happened to coincide with the holiday season here in the US. So in shopping for a Eid gift for Yousuf, I had to deal with puzzled looks down south when I explain that we don't celebrate Christmas, but taken a step further, when I explain that actually it was also the Muslim Eid. I'm not trying to be facetious here, really. I'm just relaying conversations as they happened, and you be the judge.


Woman at checkout counter in toy store: "Oh what a lovely choice! Now is that a Christmas present for your son, or a birthday present...what kind of wrapping paper would you like?"

Me: "Actually, its a Eid present. Eid is a Muslim holiday. It happens to coincide with Christmas this year".

Woman: "I see. Well we have Hanukkuah paper right here!"

You get my drift (this is a true story by the way).

I had an equally enlightening conversation with our neighour's grandson, who was in the process of showing off his new bike to Yousuf.

Jacob: "What did you get for Christmas Yousuf!"

Me: "Actually, Yousuf doesn't celebrate Christmas, Jacob. He celebrates Eid."

Jacob: "Well we celebrate Christmas. and I got a cool new bike."

"Yes, I know that, Merry Christmas. Our Holiday is called Eid."

"I thought you speak Spanish"

"We speak Arabic, but that's not the point...."

"Well, i got a bike for Christmas. What did Yousuf get?"

I rest my case. I'm not asking for much here, am I? Is a simple "oh-what's Eid?" too much to expect?

I'm not sure if I should blame the schools in this case, the media, the people themselves, even the Muslim community. Maybe a little bit of each, coupled with the fact that it is just easier to ignore anything having to do with Islam here. Either way its a little startling that so few people actually have any clue about what Eid is-compared with, say, Boston, where we used to live. I even took the initiative myself in one case, and attempted to email a supermarket chain I'm very fond of (Trader Joe's) explaining that it was also Eid and suggesting they add a "Eid Mubarak!" to their flyers along with "Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas".

The response: Thank you for contacting us. We will forward your comments to Marketing and get back to you". Needless to say, they never got back to me. But I'm still holding out hope.

Yousuf decorating cupcakes with friends this Eid.


Anonymous SL said...

Hi, Enjoyed reading your blogs. I am trying to get a postcard sent from Palestine in my community project. Hope you can email me at smspenang@yahoo.com

11:50 PM  
Blogger Nakia said...

I could understand the kid not being savvy with the etiquette and whatnot, but an adult? Yikes, people can be rather dull-witted at times. This is why you need to come back to the Northeast- try Philly, it's wall-to-wall Muslims, although no Silver Envelope outlet yet. You've not told me what you want in terms of baby blankets- do let me know, I want to nab yarn during the post-Xmas sales.

3:59 AM  
Blogger don't eat alone said...


I am a new resident of Durham and have been reading your blog for some time. Thank you for your honesty.

And happy Eid.


5:55 AM  
Blogger JohnB said...

Salaam, Laila! I hope that you enjoyed Eid despite the indifference.

Yousuf, by the way, is just too cute!

In all seriousness though, what you are finding is not, in my opinion, an indifference to Islam. What you find in this country is that the spiritual has been replaced by the temporal. "Christmas" has been turned into a holiday focused completely on the gift-getting aspect. Your neighbors were not so much puzzled by Eid as they were blinded by the assumption that you were not buying Christmas gifts.

Here in America, the number of people who actually celebrate Christmas as a spiritual event such as Ramadan for example, are very much in the minority.

Should people be more aware of the Muslim as well as Christian holidays (and Jewish, etc)? Yes. Will they be? No. Why? Because the focus is completely and totally (from a marketing standpoint) on the need to "celebrate" by buying a lot of stuff in the hopes that someone bought a lot of stuff for you! You did not hear back from Trader Joe's marketing folks simply because the Muslim community does not represent a large enough market share. Cynical, I know, but I believe this to be true.

And you know, the loss of the spiritual contemplation aspect of this or any "religious" holiday is just a shame.

InshaAllah that some balance is restored to people's lives.


1:31 PM  
Anonymous rattttu said...

here in London I haven't seen any happy eid signs either. It's amazing as 15% at least of Londoners are Muslim. While on the other hand the non-christian shops-staff (Indian, Bengali, others) have to wear stupid Christmas hats.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

What a cutie he is!!

Laila, your post got me thinking. I used to live outside of Dearborn, Michigan, which may have crossed your radar. I spent a lot of time thinking about divides and misunderstandings. There's still so much confusion about Islam and what it means (and to whom), but I'm not sure I'd look for enlightenment behind a gift-wrap counter. Although I appreciate your annoyance, I'm kind of glad she would think to even mention Hannukah. I don't think I knew any Jewish people until I was well into my twenties! How that could be, I don't know.... I wouldn't know who to hold accountable for the ignorance you allude to; but then, I do think many people make change happen in small ways, and people are more attuned to differences now, at least I think so. Do you agree, or am I being overly hopeful?

Don't give up on Trader Joe's! They'll come around, I'm sure of it!

Iyi Bayramlar (if anyone out there is celebrating Eid in Turkish style!)

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenter that Xmas is temporal rather than religious- I live in NYC and am Jewish- but the number of people- Christmas celebrators- who know nothing about chanukah except for the concept of giving gifts is amazing. My family does not give gifts of anything more than a book-I used to get jacks or playing cards- and the concept of children not having gotten loot is inconceivable to many. So it is not just Eid - Americans seem to just know about decorations and presents.

1:36 AM  
Blogger @bdul muHib said...

I completely agree. I saw signs here and there, in storefronts or commercials, going out of their way to say Happy Hannukuh, Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas. And I was thinking, depending on which statistics you use, Islam is now either the 2nd or 3rd largest religion in the U.S. Why are we squandering this rare opportunity when all four major American religions coincide. (Including the Mormons, who celebrate Christmas.) (The other time of coincidence was of course when 'Id al Fitur came at Christmas a few years ago.)

I think further, that the attempt to call things a Holiday Tree and use Happy Holidays, but not anything religious, short-changes other religions, like Islam and Judaism. We can put up a Christmas tree, which has nothing to do with Christianity, and then no longer worry about considering what holidays are going on at the same time.

Because of the prohibition of images in Islam, I am unsure of how to represent 'Id al Kabir, but why couldn't we have had a Christmas tree, a creche, a menorah, and something of Islam, on front of lawns of city halls all over this country? Because it would be too religious. So we will pretend that only the secular holiday of Christmas occurs, and there are no other religions with their own traditions and holidays at this time of year.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Cakes said...

hee hee. I'm laughing about the Hanukkuah paper! That's ridiculous!

7:51 AM  
Blogger علوش said...

Well Be sure they know what you are talking about, and media is not going to solve anything, they canceled 1000 year of their history just cause they hate when some one told them they learnt from the Arabs, Muslims Arabs.

So why you expect they don't want to accept your celebration.

They canceled your right to be existed. "Palestine".

Do you really think in this revolution of knowledge, they don't know.

They canceled Aljazeera plus Aljazeera english.
What do u want more than this prof.

They just don't want to know.

in the mean time, Happy eid.

Our Exist will be made by us, we will never achieve repect until we work on our selve.

لا يغير الله ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم

9:17 AM  
Blogger Nakia said...

Laila, have you considered decorating your home for Eid? Especially if the decorations are visible from the street, it might stimulate some discussion, as well as starting a family tradition that will leave cherished memories for Yousuf and his little sis. (!) I'm so excited for you.

2:56 PM  
Blogger John & Anthea Mullis said...

Assalamu Alaykum Laila and a belated, but sincere Eid Mubaruk.

Here in New Zealand thay don't even know what Hanukkuah is - but then, that may be a good thing!!!!

Anyway we love you so keep well and keep posting.

What about the pilgrims trying to get across back into Gaza???

10:44 AM  
Anonymous sarit said...

I had to laugh!! Welcome to America! It's the reason my husband insisted on returning to Israel to raise our children. We were in Starbucks one day with a friend and her little girl. "What is Santa going to bring you, honey?" an older woman crooned at my friend's 6-year-old daughter. "Actually, we celebrate Hanukka, not Christmas," my friend explained politely. Blank look from the other woman. As we left, the older woman waved to us, very friendly, and told us "Merry Christmas!" Clueless.

At least you were in NY where they HAVE Hanukkah paper....in California, we often couldn't find it. Hint: get plain silver or gold wrap and use it for Eid.

You'll know Islam has "arrived" in America when you see Eid wrapping paper in the stores, Eid recipes in the weekend newspapers, "Happy Eid" ads on the television, and Eid decorations in the classrooms next to the ubiquitus santa clauses, fir trees and hanukkiot....

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Saqib said...

I can totally relate to this, growing up in America I had to constantly explain myself and my beliefs to ignorant Americans. But I never let that get me down, I was doing dawah for the pleasure of Allah.

Thanks for sharing your story it has provided moral support.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am 53 and jewish. i grew up in west orange, new jersey near new york city, with its 2 million jews. my elementary school was 40% jewish.we had christmas this and easter that and zero anything jewish, in those days: no multicultural inclusiveness, songs with jesus in them (who is not a prophet to us), easter egg hunt, not a channakuh decoration in sight. that was early 60's. in late 60's in great neck, which was proably 65% jewish, we did not study the Shoah (nazi genocide) beyond one paragraph in the text book, we had Xmas trees and Xmas carols and again, no Chanakuh or anything. I was penalized for being unable to attend sports activities on our Sabbath.

obviously that has changed some.
so i think it is wrong to think things wont change for you, too. it just takes time and consciousness raising. keep telling people about ramadan and eid.
btw:now segway to california where i live. even now, on Xmas all the time the clerks in the stores wish me a Merry Xmas, and when i wittily respond with Happy Chanakuh, or Happy Kwanzaa, they look at me like i am crazy. Sometimes i just look at them and say thanks, but i am not Christian.
You can imagine the response i get.
not often favorable.
great Blog and keep your chin up.

11:07 AM  

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