Calgarians celebrating Eid hope it can be a provincial holiday some day soon

As Calgarians mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, there is hope that one day Eid al-Fitr could be an official day off from work or school. 

After morning prayer, more than 500 Muslims marked Eid at the Calgary Islamic Centre in the southwest on Monday — the first time since the onset of the pandemic they've been able to have a large gathering for the celebration. 

"People, I believe, were desperate to get together. And you can find the youth are getting together very lively and happily," said Amira Aly.

"It's such a pleasure and a blessing to be able to gather back together," she said. 

The Eid celebrations included bouncy castles, henna tattoos and face painting for the children. Food, of course, was plentiful. 

"It feels great to finally be out with all your friends and have so much fun here," said Leen Budair.

"It feels better than being locked up at home."

Aly and Budair are among the many Muslims who take off work and school to celebrate Eid. Some say it should be an official day off for people who mark the religious holiday. 

The Grasslands Public School district in southeast Alberta plans to give Eid off to every student next year.

"Having that implemented as part of a provincial day off number one, it makes us feel that we are included, that we are being listened to," said Omar Al Bastami, who had to take the day off of work. 

"Number two, we don't have to worry about the stress of catching up with school and studies," he said. 

In a statement, the Calgary Board of Education says there are no formal discussions about making Eid a day off here, but work has been underway to gather feedback during as part of its anti-racism initiative. 

"We heard from students, staff and our community though the work of CBE Cares that recognizing holidays from all religions is meaningful and would contribute to a welcoming, caring and safe school and work environment," reads a statement from the school board.

Aly says she has to regularly email her children's teachers during Ramadan and Eid to let them know the kids will be missing days of school. 

"If they're not missing school officially and missing education officially, that would be amazing," she said. 

In a statement issued on Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he hopes that all Muslim Albertans have been spiritually enriched by the difficult Ramadan fast.

"As families gather for traditional Eid celebrations, I wish them a joyful celebration of the end of the fast," Kenney said. 

 “May you enjoy peace and blessings as you celebrate Eid this year. Eid Mubarak.”