When Toledo children’s author Aya Khalil began feeling isolated with her three children during COVID, she began writing The Night Before Eid. Khalil says, “It was the hug that we needed at the time, because it’s full of joy and love and baking… and that intergenerational connection.”
As a child, Khalil noticed that there were no books in her classroom or the library to celebrate Eid or Ramadan. She felt sad when other holidays like Christmas were celebrated with excitement and plenty of representation in books. When she had her own children, she knew that she wanted to write a book that featured the Muslim holiday of Eid.
The book is written for both Muslim children who often don’t see themselves represented in books about holidays and for children who don’t celebrate Eid, to learn more about it. It is relatable because the traditions of gathering and baking together are common to many holiday traditions.
The Night Before Eid is the story of a grandson and his relationship with his grandmother (Tieta) who is visiting from Egypt. When baking together gets messy and disaster is imminent, Teita reminds him of an Arabic saying that means, “Be patient. Patience is beautiful.”
When writing this story, Khalil drew on her own experiences of watching her own kids visit with their grandmother, Khalil’s mother-in-law, from Egypt. Khalil’s favorite part of the book is the “relationship between the grandma and the grandchild, Zain. He reminds me of my son. He’s so sweet and he really loves her a lot.” The illustrator, Rashin Kheiriyeh, added whimsical touches and fun to the book with the addition of a cat who participates in all the traditions along with Zain and his grandmother.
Eid is “a festival of breaking the fast” and is celebrated on the last night of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of fasting from food and water from dawn to dusk. The fasting teaches patience, self-control, and slowing down. Children often want to participate in fasting for small periods of time. Families can decide if a child fasts for a couple of hours, a half day, or a few days of fasting from sunrise to sunset. At adolescence, children begin to fast every day for the entire month. Ramadan is celebrated 10 – 12 days earlier each year because it is based on the lunar calendar.
Khalil gives tips on how non-Muslims can support their Muslim friends during Ramadan:
- Children who are fasting during the school day might want to stay in the library or play outside during lunchtime.
- Hard exercise might not be appropriate as fasting includes fasting from water.
- If your kids have Muslim friends or neighbors, teach them to say “Ramadan Mubarak”, or “Happy Ramadan” or ask “How is your Ramadan?” Khalil says, “My kids love it when their friends at school or their teachers tell them ‘Ramadan Mubarak’”.
- On Eid the greeting changes to “Eid Mubarak”.
Eid “is a celebration of the fast… such a big accomplishment …it’s just a celebration with family, friends, food and a lot of cookies.” The book includes a brief explanation of the Egyptian history of Eid and the traditional dessert, ka’ak, along with a recipe.
Aya Khalil is the author of two additional children’s books. You can learn more at ayakhalil.com/books.