Reitz Home Museum dresses up

Reitz Home Museum dresses up to reflect world of holiday traditions

Evansville’s Reitz Home Museum, built in 1871, has long ruled as the stately queen of the grand dowagers in the city’s Historic District, and Victorian Christmas tours through the house have been a tradition for 26 years.

According to executive director Tess Grimm, during the holiday season thousands of people pass through the glowing stained-glass doors of this well-preserved Victorian home to get a glimpse of what Christmas may have been like for the Reitz family that lived there in the late 1800s. But this year visitors are in for a surprise, because Grimm has put a new twist on the tradition.

“Celebrations Around the Globe” is this year’s theme, and Tri-State residents will learn how cultures around the world celebrate Christmas and other holidays that are an integral part of their heritage. Each room will represent the traditions of a specific country, and as a result, the Reitz Home will be a mosaic of celebrations that includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year as well as examples of various European Christmas traditions.

Grimm wanted to include Evansville’s growing international community in Reitz Home holiday festivities, so she invited some of its members to assist local decorators with the home’s holiday transformation and encouraged them to incorporate some of their native countries’ traditions.

When Bushra Saqib, a Pakistani-born Muslim, was asked to help decorate Christina’s Bedroom, she was delighted at the opportunity to share some of her customs with the community. She says in an age when Muslims are increasingly associated with terrorism, she was pleased to have the chance to “present the beautiful side of Islam.”

For Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr is the most celebrated holiday of the year. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and the beginning of a joyous three-day feast. Wearing new clothes at Eid is a time-honored tradition, and Saqib is organizing a display of festive, hand-embroidered dresses that are often worn for the occasion.

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A family’s Eid traditions

Eid al-Fitr is the celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of seeking forgiveness for sins. On Eid, people hope God has accepted their fasting.

In my family, on the day before Eid we have Chand Raat, the Night of the Moon, an Indian and Pakistani tradition. Women have parties where there are dances and food. We usually put henna on our hands and dance until our feet hurt. We skip school for one day.

I start out Eid by dressing in very nice clothes and eating a little something sweet. Then we go to our mosque, the Islamic Society of Western Maryland. We pray our Eid prayers, then we greet everyone with “Eid Mubarak” which is a greeting like “Merry Christmas.”

We eat a traditional breakfast which is a chick pea dish, doughnuts, halva (a honey-and-sesame seed dish) and roti (a flat type of bread like pita). After breakfast we go to parties at our friends homes. Children receive gifts such as money and toys.

In the evening, we all meet again at a hall to end Eid. We have a big celebration with lots of delicious food and entertainment. Each Eid, our Islamic Sunday School has a performance for the Islamic community. The kids usually perform a song or a play about religion.

Overall, Eid is a very special holiday in Islam, and it is my favorite one.