Earlier today, I gave my fifth "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester. As it was Eid ul Fitr, I talked about how it is a happy occasion that everyone can share.
I have decided that there are two kinds of religious festivals. Some are solemn and serious, while others are meant to be fun while still having a religious element.
For example, in Judaism the Day of Atonement, marked by fasting and Synagogue prayers, is the most solemn day of the year. Conversely Chanukah, which commemorates a day’s worth of oil for a sacred lamp miraculously lasting for eight days, is a happy occasion. As well as religious services, it is marked by giving presents and having parties.
Similarly, in Christianity Good Friday and Easter Sunday are basically solemn and serious events, commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. However Christmas, like all birthdays, is a fun occasion. So as well as people attending church services, it is also the season for having a party.
Unless you belong to a particular religion, it is quite hard to get involved in that religion’s solemn and serious festivals. However it is quite easy to share in fun occasions. If your neighbour is having a party, you want them to invite you to join in. As an example, at the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester we have celebrated Chanukah together quite happily.
Islam also has solemn and serious religious festivals, as well as happy ones. Today is the happiest Muslim festival of all, Eid ul Fitr. It marks the ending of the month of Ramadan which is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, because Ramadan is when the Quran started to be revealed. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.
Eid celebrates the religious devotion that Muslims have shown during Ramadan. Despite what you might think, it is not a celebration of being able to eat again!
However, apart from going to the mosque in the morning, Eid is celebrated by having families getting together and having a big meal. As a fun occasion, it is ideal for sharing. Accordingly, if you are having an Eid meal, why not invite your non-Muslim neighbours around so that they can share Eid with you. Or if you haven’t got enough space, send them a food parcel. After all, we are one extended human family!