In Henry A. Proesel Park on Monday, there were sounds of celebration.
People of all ages sat at long picnic tables, laughing with their neighbors and eating from plastic plates loaded with food. Kids ran about, faces painted with colorful butterflies and stars.
They gathered together to celebrate Eid al-Fitr — a 3-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a month observed by fasting from sunrise to sundown.
Muslims in Lincolnwood and across Chicago are observing Eid with family and friends. Many turned out to their mosques Monday for early morning services.
Proesel Park’s event was organized by the Ojala Foundation in partnership with several other local groups. Many attendees were converts — who weren’t born Muslim but decided to choose the faith later in life.
Alma Campos, co-founder of the Ojala Foundation, said that makes gatherings like this one particularly special for her community. Many don’t have family who are Muslim, she said.
“So you’re fasting for all these hours, and at the end of the day you might be breaking your fast by yourself,” Campos said.
Campos said it’s important to help them feel supported. After all, connecting with community is an important part of Ramadan for all Muslims.
After two years of shutdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, Campos said Ramadan this year felt more normal.
“For the past two years we were really conservative getting everybody together. We had a lot of virtual things,” Campos said. “We did have community iftars every week, but we tried to be as cautious as we could. And a lot of people were still scared and afraid so they didn’t make it out.”
This year, people are eating and laughing together again. Campos gestures to a long buffet-style table filled with all sorts of food. There were tacos, salad, watermelon, pastries and more.
The Ojala Foundation brought enough to eat, Campos said, “but our community is so generous that everybody brings something, so right now it’s a full never-ending table of food and sweets. And this is just from the goodness of their heart, is bringing stuff to share with everyone.”
Melissa Dababseh, a day-care provider in Chicago, said that kind of community spirit is what she loves about Eid celebrations.
She also loves the goody bags.
Dababseh helped pack 100 for the event, filled with candy and sweets. She said she loves to see the faces of kids getting a bag-full of candy after a month of fasting. Her 7-year-old son fasted for the first time this year, she said.
Eid always brings her a lot of happiness, Dababseh said.
“This year was especially joyful because COVID was on the low side, and we knew we were going to have an Eid celebration that would be outdoors, so that brought a lot of joy,” Dababseh said.