Just as many Orange County residents celebrate Chinese New Year and Nowruz – Persian New Year, one local Muslim youth group wants to add the Islamic New year – called Hijri – to the mix with a Saturday festival and night market.

Just off the success of organizing a Ramadan night market this Spring, Muslim Youth OC has been organizing for weeks to bring thousands in the community together again.

This time it’s to ring in the 1445th Islamic New Year with halal food, carnival games, live music and a car show.

Organizers like Muhammad Ataya, event manager for Muslim Youth OC, say this year’s celebration will be on a scale never seen before in Orange County in an effort to expose Islamic culture and traditions to a broader group of people.

“We really want people to understand that there’s also an Islamic New Year and understand why,” he said in a phone interview. “We wanted to do that in a social setting, not in a classroom setting, not in a mosque.”

Muhammad Ataya, 36, is helping put together one of the largest Islamic New Year celebrations in OC. Credit: HOSAM ELATTAR / Voice of OC.

Islamic New Year or Hijri in Arabic marks the start of a new 12 month lunar year for Muslims around the world and derives its name from Prophet Muhammad’s migration from the holy cities of Mecca to Medina.

Based on the moon and not the sun, the Islamic calendar runs for 12 months and is about 11 days shorter than the solar based Gregorian calendar which most OC residents observe. 

This year, Hijri fell on July 19.

To read more about Islamic New Year, click here.

Large celebrations of Hijri are not typical even in Muslim majority countries but the local youth group hopes to change that.

Ataya said some in the Muslim community celebrate Islamic New Year at their local mosques but never together in one place. He also adds they want non-Muslims to come to the festival too and join in on the fun.

“We want them to learn about it and not be afraid of it when they hear that Muslims are celebrating something. We want to kind of remove that stigma,” he said.

The festival will take place tomorrow, July 22, at Portola Middle School in Orange from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m and will feature food vendors, carnival games, henna tattoo, shops, a live concert and include free classes from World Boxing Council Champion Ahmad Ibrahim. 

There will also be a car show, a scavenger hunt planned for kids to learn about the history of the holiday and an exhibit hosted by the Palestinian Youth Movement to teach people about the history of Palestine.

The event is costing about $20,000-$25,000 for the group to put together – recouping costs through mainly vendor fees, carnival games, a concession stand and a $5 entry fee for people who didn’t pre-register for the festival.

They’re expecting 3,000 people.

Those who wish to attend the festival must reach out to Muslim Youth OC on Instagram for the password to buy tickets through Eventbrite.

One of the vendors at Saturday’s event is Aliya Amin, a 26-year-old Pakistani American, who started a home based baking business during the COVID-19 pandemic

With a masters in Science from Chapman University, she named her business Beaters and Beakers and began experimenting with new and unique flavors taking inspiration from her South Asian roots.

Tomorrow Amin expects to sell croissants with a Kashmiri chai filling for the first time.

For Amin, the event will bring importance to celebrating Islamic New Year.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an event just for Islamic New Year. I feel like everyone just goes hard for Ramadan and Eid,” she said.

Muslim Youth Come Together to Host Ramadan Night Market

Saturday’s festival isn’t the first night market Muslim Youth Orange County has hosted.

A few weeks before Ramadan, a holy month when Muslims embark on a 30-day fast from sunrise to sunset, a group of friends from mosques in OC and Southern California had an idea:

Bring the Muslim community together in one location and provide the atmosphere of Ramadan nights that is felt back east here in Southern California through a night market.

“If anyone’s been to the Middle East during Ramadan, the night is just such a nice feeling. You go outside and there’s people going into the mosques, praying but then also grabbing a bite to eat, going to get dessert, visiting friends and family,” Ataya said.

“You really don’t have that here.”

This group of friends planned the Ramadan Night Market earlier this year in OC based off of a similar event that takes place in Detroit.

They expected about 500 people to show up.

More than 4,000 people did.

The massive turnout at the Ramadan Night Market has led the group to search for a bigger venue this time and partner up with the Orange Unified School District to rent space at Portola Middle School.

Putting Islamic New Year on The Map

Ayah Abul Hasan, a Welcome Lead with Muslim Youth OC, said in an interview the Islamic New Year celebration will give Muslims an opportunity to reinvest in their culture, faith and learn about the history of their religion.

She says the celebration is the start of a new tradition in Orange County for local Muslims.

“Most people celebrate Christmas and Halloween,” Abul Hasan said. “People are forgetting about their Muslim culture.”

Ayah Abul Hasan, Muslim Youth OC Welcome Lead, hopes to popularize the celebration of Islamic New Year for Muslims in Orange County. Credit: HOSAM ELATTAR / Voice of OC.

Abul Hasan, a 23-year-old Lebanese American, started Desserts ‘n Stuff – a business selling baked goods and one of the event’s vendors – after being inspired from seeing her mother baking in the kitchen.

“I didn’t want to work for somebody. So I just started my own thing,” said Abul Hasan who majored in culinary arts at Orange Coast College.

Hadi Tayara, volunteer recruiter, said in an interview that there is a need for these types of events in Orange County.

“There’s not a lot of Muslim events or festivals around here,” he said.

Tayara, 17, is also Lebanese American and his parents left Beirut to escape a civil war.

Had Tayara, 17, helped recruit volunteers for the July 22 Islamic New Year night market. Credit: HOSAM ELATTAR / Voice of OC

He said even though he grew up here, his parents instilled in him the religion, traditions and values they were taught back east.

Now Tayara is helping keep those traditions alive in Orange County.

And is even part of starting a new one.

“You’re really missing out, if you don’t show up,” he said. “There’s something for everyone.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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