On Saturday, October 4th, Hayat hosted a fantastic dinner to celebrate Eid. Eid al-Adha, also referred as the "Feast of Sacrifice," is one of the biggest and most important Islamic holidays (not to be confused with Eid al-Fitr, the "Feast of Breaking the Fast," which marks the end of Ramadan). The three day festival commemorates Abraham's trials and marks the end of Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca. In honor of humanity's connections to one another, Eid is a time where Muslims come together and celebrate with prayer, sharing food, music, and dance. Here at Skidmore in the small city of Saratoga Springs, we had the opportunity to participate in the celebration through Hayat's Eid Dinner.
The dinner started with a brief introduction from Mustafa. He explained the meaning of Eid and why people celebrate it. After Mustafa's short talk, people were invited to get food. Everyone was really excited and a long line formed quickly, because, definitely, food is an exciting part of a festival! There was great Indian food with vegetable samosas, naan, vegetable masala, lamb rogan josh, and biriyani. The food was fantastic, and I couldn't help but get two full plates. Here are some pictures of the food we had during Eid Dinner.
Yes, I love food and dance, but I have to say that the highlight of the day for me was henna. I have seen people doing and having henna done, but never had henna on myself before. I wasn't sure if I wanted to have henna, but with some peer pressure, I decided, why not?! I really enjoyed my experience, and one of my friends asked me to do henna on her. First, I was really nervous, but after my first try, I was fascinated with it.
After both having henna done and doing henna on someone for the first time, I realized that I really don't know much about the cultural background of henna. I knew some general facts about how henna is usually done during special days, such as weddings or religious holidays, but not in detail. So I decided to do some research!
Henna has been practiced for over 5000 years (some argue even 9000 years!) in different cultures all over South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. With its long history, henna has been used in very special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and holidays. Some records even suggest that in ancient Egypt, mummies had henna designs! Henna has become popular in the west, including here in the United States, starting from the 90s, when celebrities appeared on media with their bodies with henna tattoos.
This made me wonder if henna is cultural appropriation. I read some blog posts which helped me organize my thoughts around henna and cultural appropriation. Since henna is used in various cultures with different meanings, it is hard to say that simply having henna done itself is appropriative. However, as a person of not one of those cultures, I believe that we should be mindful that there are special meanings and do not use henna that might be disrespectful, especially towards religion.
Overall, Eid Dinner was fantastic and gave me space to reflect on my actions toward different cultures. I hope that there will be more opportunities on campus where people can truly enjoy their own culture and where others will come with a respecting and learning attitude.
- Want to know more about Eid, Islam, South Asian or Middle Eastern culture? Come and join Hayat on Thursdays at 6pm in the ICC!!!Also LIKE their Facebook page!
- Want to know more about henna? Click HERE!
- Want to know more about cultural appropriation? Click HERE!
- Want to read some blog posts about henna and cultural appropriation?