Most of us are familiar with a few religious holidays we don’t celebrate, at least to the point where we could identify Hanukkah or Easter in a game of Jeopardy… but what do you do when your girlfriend invites you to celebrate Eid with her Muslim family this winter? You went the funny route by replying, “Eid love to,” and she rolled her eyes and laughed, but now you’re wondering just what you’ve gotten yourself into.

Take a deep breath, and we can explain what Eid’s all about so you can enjoy the festivities:

Beauty and the Feast

While Eid may not be ringing a bell for you, if someone said “Ramadan” your ears would perk up with recognition. There are two Eids throughout the year: Eid al-Fitr, which occurs at the conclusion of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which occurs toward the end of the year. Both holidays have a roaming schedule, so you could just as easily find yourself celebrating Eid al-Adha in December as in September. This latter Eid is a holiday of sacrifice and a time where followers are encouraged to split their food with those less fortunate. As a result, there is lot of good food being passed around during the holiday. The actual dishes vary from country to country, but you can usually count on kebabs of lamp or beef, as well as fried liver. Rice dishes and sweet cookies are also common staples of the feast that can last for four days.

It Really Is Better to Give Than to Receive

While a lot of holidays in Canada are centered around buying the latest gadgets and competing with your neighbours for the most impressive decorations, Eid is focused on community and charity. Muslims must give to the poor if they have the money to do so, and plenty choose to give in other ways, like donating food to a homeless shelter or inviting lonely neighbors over to celebrate the day with them.

If you’re like most of us, you think a lot about how you should be doing more to help the less fortunate, but you need a little motivational shove to actually do it. Well, here’s that shove. Take advantage of Eid’s focus on doing good and contribute something of your own, whether that’s adding some money to a charity pool or using your car to drive all the donations around town. As an added bonus, you might get in good with your girlfriend’s parents and gain their respect.

Come Out and Pray

Prayers are a big part of Eid, and some families may be less inclined to share a religious holiday with someone who doesn’t share their faith. That being said, if you’ve been invited to Eid, be respectful at the dinner table. Don’t make a big deal about prayer time, but don’t join in either, unless they specifically invite you to do so.

If the whole group goes to the mosque to perform their Eid prayers, you can quietly excuse yourself and rejoin them when they’re done. At other times, you may find that you’re in the middle of feasting or chatting when it’s time for prayer. Quietly swallow that mouthful of rice and wait respectfully before continuing to chow down on the brilliant spread of food in front of you.

People sometimes tiptoe around religious holidays because they don’t want to risk offending devout followers, but you will feel more comfortable around Eid festivities now that you have a little bit of background on what to expect. If you’re thrown a curveball, just remember to be polite, curious, and most of all, mindful of others during this important international holiday.

Do you have any tips for someone new to Eid?