Eid ul Fitr just ended, and so did a whole weekend of celebrations. I also took this opportunity to host my friends at my place. I will be honest. With a full time job and 3 kids, it is no easy task to organize an Eid gathering.
Living in North America, where help with entertaining is lacking, I have come to appreciate the concept of Potlucks. While 5 years back, I would crinkle my nose at this idea, I now welcome it, as it allows the hosts to open up their home, with one less task of cooking.
Eid after a month of Ramadan, as was the case for this Eid, was the perfect opportunity to teach my kids the values of Islam. All the points mentioned below are influenced by what our Prophet (PBUH) has also preached and practiced.
I have also learned, that MashAllah people are so supportive in helping with a potluck. Many will go above and beyond what is assigned, and help in so many other ways. That said, potlucks are also a great opportunity to practice our Islamic Values of helping others, and is the theme for this post.
Some of the things I have learned while attending potlucks:
1. Ask the hosts how you may help before the gathering.
Simply asking the hosts if they need any help, is an amazing way to show your support to them. For sure you are cooking a meal to bring, yet it is the hosts who are gathering all, and making the venue ready. One can simply go to a restaurant to eat, but the personal touch of being welcomed in someone’s home is beyond the efforts of walking into an eatery. The hosts spend hours preparing and getting things ready for welcoming you. Do not assume that just because you bring the food, you have done more.
I have learned, that simply calling and asking ahead if any help is needed, will surely be appreciated. If you are asked to help, what better way to do your good deed?
2. Offer support while at their home.
Alhumdulilah we have disposable plates now 😀
Still, lots of other tasks, like heating food, setting up meals, and other small tasks, add to the work of the hosts. Eid should be an enjoyable occasion for all, and not for the guest to assume that the host is there to wait on them. My mom, mashAllah, taught all us kids to get up and help. Even to this day, my 40-year-old brother gets up and helps when at someone’s home. I tell you, this practice is what humbles us, and makes us appreciate our parents more.
Offer any support, that may be appropriate and appreciated. I know a friend, who really appreciated that the guests would entertain her young daughter, while she set up things. (Fatima you are adorable ;))
Asking to help with heating your dish, or to serve your finger food in a tray, or even to bring a serving spoon, makes it all the more helpful to the host.
3. Respect the hosts’ requests.
When you are at someone’s home, ask and follow their house rules. You would do the same if you were in a Museum or School.
North American wooden houses come with their own delicate dramas. One thing I have learned the hard way (another post on that), that no-shoe policy must be respected.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, and youth in Pakistan, shoes were worn everywhere. Yet, in Canada, with the wooden floors, and the Snow in winters, has led to the ‘No shoe’ policy at most homes. I have learned that it actually helps in keeping the home clean and the floor scratch-free (mostly).
Other simple observations, like what the host is and is not allowing their kids, also guides me in advising my kids. I always appreciate when the host says something as ‘No food upstairs please’/ or ‘No heels in the backyard’. All of this helps us prepare better.
4. Help with cleanup.
Again, while Eid or any other Potluck is hosted by the family of the house, helping with cleaning does no harm. I recall visiting my cousin in USA when young, and was amazed that all got up and helped clear the place for the host.
Some ways you can help:
· Offer to pack the left overs. Perfect for you to sort the left overs while the hosts take care of the guests.
· Offer to check for any cutlery around the house. You don’t want the hosts discovering plates of uneaten food after four days!
· Offer to make tea. Yes! as South Asian, no meal is complete without tea! Thanks to Coffee Urns, this task is simple. Yet, helping in set up makes all the difference.
5. Appreciate and thank the hosts for their efforts.
At the end of the gathering, simply offering a thank you, is surely appreciated.
I know how we as the 21st century guests have taken to Social Media to post about every gathering at the drop of the hat. Yet, before you hop to posting the pictures, do make the effort to thank the hosts. It is not just about etiquettes, but also Sunnah to offer your appreciation.
While writing this post, I too realized many things that I should be doing, when invited into someone’s’ home. Are there any other suggestions that you would add? Please comment below.