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"I still long for the joy that only Eid brings." What it's like celebrating Eid al-Adha in lockdown.

This week, Muslims around the world will be celebrating Eid al-Adha, which in Arabic means the festival of the sacrifice and is the longer and more significant of the two main Eid celebrations that Muslims observe. 

Often called the 'big Eid', it’s a celebration of Prophet Abraham passing the test god gave him and marks the end of Hajj, a pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Growing up in a Muslim household, the night before an Eid celebration was one of the most exciting nights of the year. 

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As one of seven children, my mum had her work cut out for her on Eid eve. 

She’d run around frantically trying to make sure our home was sparkling clean, getting all our special outfits ready and preparing an unnecessary amount of maamoul – a delicious Middle Eastern biscuit made during religious holidays. 

She would also have to tame five very curly manes of hair – those were the days when literal clothing irons were used to achieve straight hair, way before the invention of the GHD, and let me tell you, it was not fun. 

However, the special and exciting atmosphere around celebrating Eid made all the pulling and sizzling of our hair worth it. 

Laying out our special outfits at the foot of our beds, sneaking a bite or two of maamoul dough and discussing all the ridiculous things we were going to do with the wads of cash we’d be given by our parents, grandparents, and extended family over the coming days – sleep was the last thing we wanted to do.  

But my parents always aptly reminded us that if we didn’t sleep, we wouldn’t have enough energy to sustain the many activities planned for the next few days. 

On Eid day we’d wake up at what felt like the crack of dawn, get all dressed up and head to the local mosque to take part in Eid prayer, which was always followed by gifts for all the kids, lots of maamoul, and juice boxes. 

We’d then enjoy a big breakfast feast (at a restaurant if we were lucky) and visit, or be visited by, family. Cha-ching!

As I’ve grown older and have had to juggle work and social commitments alongside Eid visits, and become the giver rather than the receiver of the cash gifts, the excitement I once felt has dimmed. 

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You could compare it to Christmas I suppose – the magic can sometimes diminish the older you get. 

A previous Eid celebration, pre-pandemic. Image: Supplied.

However, this year will be completely different – 'Eid al-Lockdown' will mean celebrating at home, without a drop of makeup on, slippers and track pants replacing several pre-planned outfits and of course not being able to share a meal with my broader family. 

It’s this inability to truly celebrate what I consider a sacred time that has made me realise that the fire that ignites within me during Eid will never truly burn out.

The usual marathon-like planning and organising (that I ordinarily complain about) has been replaced with a family video call which allowed me to wish my siblings and all 11 of my nieces and nephews a blessed Eid at once.

A few years ago, I’d tell you that getting half my obligations done in under 10 minutes is a win. 

Even if I couldn’t get a word in on the call, I’d probably revel in how efficient the process was! Yet, I still long for the craziness. The family. The reconnection to, and emphasis on, faith. And the joy that only Eid brings.

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Sounds cliché, but sometimes it really does take not having something to miss it.

That’s why this year, I’ll celebrate by directing all the money I would have spent on outfits, gifts, and outings to people who need it more than me. 

This is an important part of Eid al-Adha – zakat – another pillar of Islam which requires Muslims to donate a portion of their earnings to the needy, if they can afford to. 

While giving zakat is something I usually do, this year it feels particularly poignant because Islamic traditions are all about togetherness. 

Since living through a pandemic means we can’t have that in the physical sense, I’m taking the opportunity to think about how else I can support and feel connected to my community in a way that truly embodies the spirit of what Eid al-Adha is all about.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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