27 August 2011

Scheduling Muslim Holidays in a Not-So-Devout Muslim Country

So I've mentioned before that there's a scheduling conflict in Kyrgyzstan this year because Eid al-Fitr (Orozo Ait/Ramazan Hayit) falls on August 31, which is Independence Day.  And not just any Independence Day, but the 20th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's independence.

First it was assumed that Eid al-Fitr would be celebrated on August 30, then one minister announced both holidays would be on the 31st.  But that doesn't work because that makes for some serious scheduling conflicts, especially in Bishkek.  And outside Bishkek the two holidays are celebrated differently from each other.  A good comparison is Christmas Day and the Fourth of July in the US.  Christmas is a family and friends holiday, but the Fourth is a public and community holiday.  The same goes for Orozo Ait and Independence Day.

So the Grand Mufti in Bishkek announced last Tuesday that no one would know the date of Eid al-Fitr till August 29th.  I'm not sure why that is the date (Eid al-Fitr always comes with a little mystery since it's based on sightings of the moon and can come a day earlier or later than expected- although astronomically it should be entirely predictable, but I digress) that Eid al-Fitr can be determined, unless we really do end up with the 30th as the date which would actually be the most convenient because September 1st is the first day of school and generally you don't mess with that.

Now that I think about it more, that last theory seems to be the most logical.  If the Mufti waits for the announcement till the evening of the 29th, he can see the moon then and Eid al-Fitr will be on the 30th, Independence Day on the 31st, and First Bell on the 1st.  Eid al-Fitr would appear to be based on the lunar calendar instead of the state calendar (even though the moon wouldn't really be visible), but it all would work out according to the convenience of the state calendar.

Anyway, I've enjoyed Ramadan in Tokmok.  It's hardly noticeable in Bishkek and in-your-face in the Middle East (not that I mind that at all; sometimes I wish for a bit more religious conviction), but it feels a bit like the month of December here.  People visit friends and go to iftars often, and on Ramazan Hayit and the two following days everyone will visit everyone.  Almost no one fasts, especially after the first few days of the month, but everyone has a good time.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post. It brought back happy memories.