Eid al-Fitr (meaning the feast for breaking the fast) is the celebratory feast that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and introspection for Muslims. It’s a day of thanksgiving and joy, where Muslims wear new clothes, prepare delicious foods, put up lights and decorations and give each other gifts.
And increasingly — it’s an opportunity for a necessary interfaith bonding moment.
In 2015, Jill Mapes threw her iftar dinner on a day that would be a break-fast for both Jews and Muslims — for Muslims, it was the end of Ramadan, and for Jews, it was at the end of the 17th of Tammuz fast. It was a simple meal, replete with Middle Eastern pre-packaged salads and store-bought hummus. Most of the food served was strictly kosher, save a few vegan or vegetarian dishes.
“I think we all left feeling very positive about the experience,” she told the Forward. “I’d love to be a part of a bigger event some time.”
When Mapes threw her interfaith iftar dinner three years ago, there was only one other Jewish-Muslim iftar that she knew of. “Lately, at least in the Boston area, it seems that it has become more common for Muslims to welcome the public, in general, to their iftars. For example, both the city of Boston and the city of Cambridge had city-wide iftars open to all,” she told me. It’s a lovely sign of cultural shift, although it does prove a bit tricky for Jews keeping kosher.
Saadia Faruqi is the Interfaith Coordinator for the women’s group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Houston, Texas. It’s a mosque where interfaith iftars are held regularly. “The mood is very positive,” she told me, adding, “It’s an opportunity for people of different faiths to come together over food and talk about fasting traditions they may be familiar with. I usually have round table discussions before dinner, so we not only talk about Ramadan but also Yom Kippur and Lent and the Hindu fasts.”
So are we witnessing the dawn of a new, interfaith-friendly era? What does this mean for the utopian dream of religious coexistence?
Well, first things first. Here’s how you can join in the celebration.
Tips for throwing an interfaith eid:
1) Make sure all the food you serve can be eaten by everyone. Whether it has to be halal, kosher or gluten-free, it’s best to call the folks you’ll be celebrating with to make sure that bacon-dipped double cheeseburger you spent hours in the kitchen making won’t be getting stale on the table.
2) Read up on Eid traditions and party ideas. There will be special morning prayers, traditional dishes and new clothes. Don’t make your Muslim friends have to explain it all to you! Come prepared and come correct. Make interfaith dialogue a little easier on everyone. “We pray after breaking the fast, so provide a space for that,” Faruqi told me.
3) Remember: Eid is not just a party. It is a feast marking the end of a month of spiritual growth. It isn’t just a time to eat and chat with your friends. It’s also a time to discuss spiritual growth and religious history. Ramadan is a time to think about “sacrifice and renunciation as well as a period of reflection and spiritual growth,” Florian Pohl, associate professor of religion at Oxford College of Emory University, told Live Science.
4) Let your Muslim friends take the lead in the conversation. This is their holiday. Let them speak about it.
5) Prepare your foods ahead of time, so that you’re not stressed on the day of and can get food on the table quickly. Your guests will thank you.
Here’s a sample Eid menu, complete with salads and dessert:Molly Yeh’s pita recipe is an excellent base. Serve this healthy option with a variety of dips, from hummus to tabbouleh. This colorful, savory salad is a fantastic appetizer to wet the tongue for dishes to come. These peppers, stuffed with five spices, is practically designed to appeal to a Middle Eastern palate. This side dish can also double as a vegetarian or vegan main and bring some lovely color to your table. This soothing butternut squash cream soup is the perfect thing to feed to people who have been fasting. From the texture, thick but not overly so, to the warm orange color, this soup is a crowd pleaser you can dip your pita bread into. This fragrant dish is an excellent main. Silan is a date syrup whose sweetness is redolent of good times past, present and future. Incorporating it into a fish is an excellent way of spreading the sweetness of Eid into every aspect of the meal. For people who don’t like fish, there’s this chicken pastilla, which is just as elaborate and tasty as a holiday like Eid deserves. For the kids, this 1-pan recipe is where it’s art. You might want to double this recipe, because this dish goes fast. For dessert, try this Will Goldfarb recipe for an especially decadent delight.
“I get very positive comments each time,” Faruqi told me. “People are so excited at the opportunity to come visit our mosque, eat our foods, tour the mosque, observe prayers, etc. For many it’s the first time they are witnessing all this.”
And now you can do the same.
Eid Mubarak to all our interfaith iftar celebrants out there!
Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org