Extra Day Off! Hooray! (Or, Not So Much?) Reply

A few weeks ago, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City public schools would be closed for Eid holidays, starting in the 2015-2016 school year. This year, we’ll be having September 26th off.

After years of fighting for this, many Muslims across the city rejoiced.  “When these holidays are recognized, it’s a sign that Muslims have a role in the political and social fabric of America,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. This is especially important because of the post-9/11 state of mind that many people still tend to hold tight to.

What is Eid, anyways?

There are two Eids, both at different times at the year and celebrated for different reasons. The first is Eid Al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims, in which they fast for approximately 30 days in a row, from sunrise to sunset each day.  Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of the month, being the first day out of the past thirty that they’re allowed to eat and drink during the day. Muslims start the day off by praying, then tend to go join in festivities with family and friends. Depending on the culture, children may also receive money and or gifts from family members. The second Eid of the year, Eid Al-Adha, is also known as “Eid Al-Kabeer”, which translates into “The Big(ger) Eid”.  It is celebrated to honor Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in the name of God. Both Eids are celebrated very similarly, with the only difference being the requirement of meat being a part of the meal at some point in the day, in order to recognize the sheep that God sent down for Abraham to sacrifice, instead of his son. The holidays are never at a set date, because they follow a lunar calendar, which rotates each year. Generally, they’re around 11 days earlier than they were the previous year.

This year, both Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr are in the summer, which means we only get one day off, for celebrating Eid Al-Adha. Previously, this would’ve been a blessing, considering I’d only have to miss one (or two, because my parents are divorced) days of school in order to celebrate my holiday with my family and close friends. Last year, for example, my family rented a house upstate and we stayed in it during the three days allotted for the holiday, and just hung out and ate tons of great food. The only issue with this was the fact that I not only had to keep up with the homework due while I was away, I also had to keep up with all the notes and class work that I missed. Which therefore made my holiday more stressful than light-hearted and enjoyable.

Because of experiences like that, having Eid off seems like a win-win situation. Muslim kids no longer have to choose between missing school to celebrate with their family, and going to school but missing out on their holiday and culture. And every other kid gets a day off to sleep in and do as they wish. Unfortunately, Islamophobia is still a thing, which means that a lot of people are strongly against the idea of giving kids in school a day off to celebrate the “terrorist’s” religion. One person in a New York Times comment thread even went so far as to compare having Eid off to having a holiday to celebrate 9/11. It was also brought up that if Muslims, a mere 10 percent of the population, got their holiday off, people of other faiths should do the same.

Aside from those issues, though, there are also conflicts within the Muslim community. Every year, we have the same problem determining the actual day of Eid. The traditional side of the community waits until it nears the end of the month, then goes out in search of the crescent moon, called the “hilal” moon in Arabic. They rely only on moon sightings, as the prophet himself did so many years ago. Meanwhile, the progressive side of the community prefers to figure out the certain location of the moon at any given location based on astronomical calculations, thus determining when Eid will take place months, even years, in advance, as opposed to waiting until the 29th night of the previous month. It’s a rarity that the calculations and sightings around the world all match up to the same day. As a result, around half the Muslim community celebrates Eid one day, while the other half continues with their lives and celebrates the next day, or even a few days after. Usually, the calculations and sightings are within a day of each other- nothing outlandish. Yet they still differ enough to the point where September 26th, the calculated day of Eid al-Adha, and the day that NYC schools are given off may not even be Eid for the people that rely on moon sightings. Therefore, some Muslim students may just sit around all day on the 26th, then miss school the next day. Or, if some kids are in the same situation as me, and their parents have conflicting opinions on the start of Eid, those kids will celebrate two days in a row- which really means that they’re celebrating 2 out of the 3 days that the holiday is meant to celebrated during.

Overall, there have been very mixed reactions across the board to this new day off in order to recognize a Muslim holiday- we’ll just have to see how it all plays out in September.

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