April 12, 2024

A "candy walk" is this Indiana neighborhood’s way to celebrate Eid al-Fitr


Children in Fishers, Indiana celebrate Eid al-Fitr through a "candy walk". It's the community's way of celebrating the Muslim holiday every year. - Courtesy of Hala Wanas

Children in Fishers, Indiana celebrate Eid al-Fitr through a "candy walk". It's the community's way of celebrating the Muslim holiday every year.

Courtesy of Hala Wanas

Muslims across the world are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. For Muslim children in one Fishers, Indiana neighborhood that means it’s time for the yearly "Eid Candy Walk."

Houses open their doors with candy-stuffed buckets while cars blast traditional, festive music. Children go door-to-door saying the holiday greeting "Eid Mubarak," which means have a blessed Eid, as they extend their arms to reach out for candy.

"Some people are just going in their cars, and they have, like, candy," one child said. "Yeah, they're passing out candy," another added.

Children describe it as "Halloween for Muslims." While they don’t dress up in costumes, children do wear their finest new clothes for Eid.

"Somebody called it 'Halal-oween'," said Rasha Nayal laughingly. She is one of the Candy Walk organizers.

Eid al-Fitr is one of two Muslim holidays. It marks the end of a month-long fast from sunrise to sunset. It's considered one of the most festive times of the year, when communities strive to spread joy and festivities.

In their teachings Muslims are told they should celebrate Eid and spread joy through charity, family gatherings, decorations, gifts and new clothes for children, among other things.

While a trick-or-treat style candy walk is not a traditional way to celebrate Eid in majority Muslim countries, Nayal said it’s been a tradition in this Indiana neighborhood for nearly a decade.

"It's very grassroots," Nayal said. "We just make a WhatsApp group, whoever wants to join we add them to the group and then we send out all the addresses. And then everybody just goes either on their GPS or they already know because they've been here for several times, and they just find their way around and they just get candy."

But many in the community say the air feels different this year.

Aya Nazer, a Palestinian who moved to the United States two years ago, brought her children to the Candy Walk. Normally her family goes above and beyond to celebrate Eid –– they host big parties, buy fancy clothes for their kids and book an entire playground for their children to play with their friends.

This Eid, they’re not doing any of that. Nazer said as the war rages on in Gaza, they weren’t planning on celebrating Eid.

“We told [our children] we cannot do all of that just because there are other people back home. They're dying literally, they’re being killed. We’re not gonna do that,” she said.

Following the deadly attack that Hamas launched on Israel on Oct. 7 killing around 1,200 people and kidnapping more than 250 hostages, according to the Israeli authorities’ count, Israel responded with an onslaught that’s been going on for around 6 months. So far, Israel has killed more than 33,000 people in Gaza, including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

And there’s barely enough humanitarian aid going into the enclave. Now a big portion of Gazans are starving, on the verge of famine according to international aid organizations.

Some in the Arab and Muslim community in the U.S. have family and friends in Gaza. Most are closely watching the news — and the kids at home notice.

9-year-old Loulou carefully walks with a bucket in her left hand filled to the brim with candy, most of which are Twix bars, her favorite. Her right hand holds on to a big Palestinian flag that she rests on her shoulder as she walks from house to house.

"What’s happening in Palestine is really, really bad," Loulou said, explaining why she’s keen on holding the flag during the walk. She said she loves Eid and wants to celebrate but also doesn’t want to forget about the children in Gaza who cannot do the same.

Dana Awad, a Muslim Palestinian-American, often brings her children to the walk. She said it’s important to make children aware of what’s happening in Gaza, but that events like the Candy Walk and other Eid celebrations are also important.

"I feel like it's important for our kids because we live as a minority here in the USA, so we have to really make such a huge deal of our holidays despite what's happening back home. Just so that they know our religion also has joy and happiness," Awad said.

Mountaha Yasin, longtime Fishers resident and board member of the AlHuda Islamic Center, is one of the original organizers. She said the community's heart is not the same as before, since the war in Gaza.

Yasin said they almost canceled the walk this year.

"But according to our Sunnah [teachings of the Prophet], everyone has to continue to enjoy it because you have only two holidays a year," Yasin said. "So we decided to continue, but also focus on the Palestine issue. So, we have our flag, we have our songs."

 

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