My experience is of parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews all kissing, hugging and wishing each other eid mubarak. It has never crossed my mind to celebrate it without family.’ Eid celebrations in Manchester last year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
The end of Ramadan is a time to be with family. So this year we will congregate online – a luxury older generations never had. As we approach the end of Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr celebrations will be taking place this weekend. Yet Eid is going to look and feel very different this year. That for British Muslims it’s taking place in lockdown, through a global pandemic, is painful and heartbreaking.
Eid al-Fitr follows weeks of fasting and marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It is full of rituals and traditions that involve the entire family: we put on new clothes and attend prayers, followed by a rich breakfast of roasted vermicelli (sawaiyan), sweet halwa and channa curry. The feast continues with an elaborate lunch, at least it does in our household: my mother is not happy until there is chicken biryani, haleem, fried fish, lamb chops and kebabs.
But, I reminisce: this is the experience I’ve had until now, where parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews all meet, kiss, hug and wish each other eid mubarak. So far it has never crossed my mind to celebrate Eid without immediate family.
Despite having left home more than two decades ago and living in a different city, I always make it home for Eid. I was once based abroad, more than 4,000 miles away, but I took a seven-hour flight to Heathrow, spent two hours on the train and a short ferry trip so I could be home. The shock and delight on my family’s faces as I arrived unannounced is something I still remember over a decade later. Having to celebrate Eid on my own this year? I guess there is a first time for everything.
The current situation demands that we protect our loved ones by staying away. In England, people of black Caribbean background are most at risk, with 78 deaths per 100,000, while those of Indian or Pakistani origin have between 30-35 deaths per 100,000. It’s a frightening number but we should take comfort in the fact that these are extenuating circumstance that perhaps will not be repeated again in our lifetime.
Perhaps the best way to accept the situation is to look to the past. I recall my grandmother saying how hard it was for her and the family not to see her son – my dad – for more than nine years after he left Pakistan to come and study in England in the late 1960s. It now feels sad to think that he was all alone, spending all those Eids so far from his family. I have never before understood the true hardship and loneliness of his time, when it took nearly a month to send and receive letters.
Many ethnic minorities have lost loved ones to the pandemic or are in isolation due to health issues, and for Muslims, being unable to come together as a family will be painful and hard. Not being able to console each other, hold hands, hug or simply sit next to each other seems cruel. We must adapt and support our families and communities in new ways. For this one year we will have to make do with Eid gatherings on Zoom and House Party. But let us be grateful for the technology that makes it possible to see and talk to our loved ones at the touch of a button.
Source: The Guardian.