By AYESHA BABAR
The smell of henna infuses the air as the clinking of glass bangles rings all around. The moon has been sighted, and it’s one sight Muslims all over the world wait for with baited breaths. Women and girls run to desi areas for their Eid fix, and the men lay out their finest clothes for the festivities of the next day.
After thirty long days of fasting from the break of dawn till dusk, come three days of festivities for Muslims the world over. The festival, called Eid-ul-Fitr (or the ‘Festival of the Breaking of the Fast’), is characterised by different traditions and customs in different parts of the worlds where it is celebrated but there is one thread that runs through all these customs – that of thanksgiving to God for a month of blessings and a feeling of togetherness, all while mastering the art of self-control and selflessness.
Eid has long been celebrated in Britain, as there are Muslims from all over the world who have made Britain their home. However, Eid in the United Kingdom does not only unite the Muslim community but it brings together people from all faiths and backgrounds together as friends and families of the Muslim members of the community join in with the festivities. Just like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Diwali, Hannukah, among many others, Eid has also become a universal festival; one for everyone to celebrate with joy and love.
The celebrations actually start with the sighting of the moon the evening before, which is very aptly known as Chaand Raat (the Night of the Moon) in South Asia. For those who are not familiar with the Muslim calendar, the beginning of the next month is decided on the twenty-ninth day of the lunar month. If the new moon is sighted, the next month is declared to have begun. Similarly, on the twenty-ninth of Ramadan, people look out for the new moon. Once the moon is sighted, Eid is declared to be the following morning.
The morning after the Chaand Raat, is one where everyone rises early by choice, making their way to the community mosques to offer their Eid prayers. Families get together over breakfast, lunch, and dinner where the ladies of the house have prepared traditional foods. And believe me when I say this, if you’re not really a food person, you will become one after seeing the laid out tables at Eid, with enough food to last the rest of the week.
World over, there are certain delicacies that are symbolic of Eid. Dishes like Dolma in Bosnia, Ketaput and Brongkos in Indonesia, and of course Biryani in the subcontinent, scream Eid out loud. And if it is as sweet an occasion as Eid-ul-Fitr, who can leave desserts out? Vermicelli kheer, sheer khorma, shahi tukrey¸ are synonymous with the festival and are loved by every generation in the house. Anyone celebrating Eid at home will be familiar with these treats, and if don’t usually celebrate Eid, I would strongly suggest knocking on the neighbour’s door who is celebrating and sharing the joy of the occasion and the yummy goodies – trust me, you will not be disappointed! However, chances are, some will arrive at your doorstep without you asking, because togetherness and sharing is the true essence of Eid.
With clothes, henna, food, and music out of the way, comes the time every young member of the house looks forward to the most: the Eidi. Eidi is predominantly given in the form of cash, however much it is, as a token of love and appreciation for the children. Naturally, children who have kept fasts get a little bonus Eidi, too.
There was a time where British Muslims, with their extended families elsewhere, used to feel severely homesick at the time of Eid, but now they are able to feel right at home, with the tightly-knit, growing community. Areas in East London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, and Leicester among others are known for numbers of Muslims coexisting with other faiths and nationalities.
All in all, Eid is a festival of love, of giving, of sharing what you have with others, and of spreading joy, so make sure you don’t miss out on any of these. Regardless of where you are from, regardless of religion, or nationality, if you know a Muslim, you will surely get three giant hugs, when you bump into them on Eid.
So grab your family and friends, eat your hearts out, and don’t forget to share!