Long Reads

Friends, family and food: seven women on how they’re celebrating Eid 2018

Millions of Muslims across the world will mark Eid al-Adha, the Eid of sacrifice, this week. Here, seven women tell Stylist how they’ll be celebrating      

Eid al-Adha is the Muslim festival which marks the culmination of the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage in Mecca. A number of my cousins are on Hajj, so I’ve been keeping an eye on their social media feeds to see how they’re doing. This Eid also commemorates the sacrifice of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) which we mark by sacrificing an animal. Traditionally, you keep one third of the meat for yourself, while one third is given to friends and family, and one third is given to the needy. I’ve done mine through a charity this year, so all the meat will be distributed where it is most needed.

On Eid day itself (21 August), in my family, we’ll start with getting dressed up and heading to our local mosque for Eid prayers. I’ll be wearing a pair of turquoise trousers with a matching dress that comes down to my shins, covered in gold and blue beads with sequins and jewels. I’ve also got a sheer dupatta (shawl) to go with this. Then at the mosque, the prayers involve the recitation of different verses from everyday prayers, which takes about 10-15 minutes. The structure of the Eid prayer is also different, so there’s always a little bit of confusion (even though the imam gives instructions) as to when to say and do what, but that’s all part of the Eid experience!

Eid celebrations vary from person to person, as people combine old traditions with new

As Eid is on a weekday this year, it will be a quiet affair, and we’ll likely spend most of it eating. My mum makes an amazing cold chickpea dish called chaat: she learnt the recipe years ago from my cousins’ Bengali neighbours (they always used to fill their table with food on Eid and we’d just pop over and help ourselves), and it’s become our tradition to have that on Eid. She’ll usually make a big batch and we’ll graze on it throughout the day - it’s one of my favourite things to eat. We also tend to have dahi vadha, which are dumplings in a spiced yoghurt, best served with lots of tamarind chutney.

For many people in the UK, Eid is about family and food, like it is for me, but celebrations vary from person to person, as people combine old traditions with new. Here, six other Muslim women share how they’ll be celebrating.

Ayisha Malik 

Ayisha Malik is the author of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness.

Eid is a legitimate time to put my laptop away and not think about how many words I didn’t write. Instead I can do things like ask my 11-year-old nephew how he feels about the concept of sacrificing a goat while I put henna on my niece’s hands.

Henna is a traditional way to celebrate Eid

I have a small family so Eid could just be another weekend get together, but my mum always makes vermicelli in sweet milk and it reminds me of Eid celebrations throughout the years. I’m not even sure I like the sweet dish that much (although I’ll invariably be the one who finishes the entire bowl), but there’s comfort in the familiarity of the tradition.

Maybe in 20 or 30 years’ time my niece and nephew will be making vermicelli for their own families, and they’ll remember the three of us, lounging on the sofa in our Eid outfits, a bowl of vermicelli resting on my lap.

Raifa Rafiq

Raifa Rafiq is a creator and co-host of the Mostly Lit podcast.

Eid is the one time of year that I allow my inner child to run amok. I refuse to think that the spirit of such celebrations die down the older you get. Not me.

Our cultural Eid traditions back home in Zanzibar include the sought after ‘Eid money’. Kids from our neighbourhood and family knock on the doors in their small communities; I can only compare it to trick or treat. When my grandfather was alive, he would sit outside on the veranda waiting for the children to come knocking so he could gift them their shillings. As an adult, this tradition has changed for me and I now have to give Eid money rather than receive it – the horror.

Family, community and charity are the pillars of Eid that uphold our traditions. Preparations start by ensuring that every corner of the house is clean, with my favourite part being the new bedsheets and curtains that totally transform my room. And it is never Eid without new Eid outfits: for three to four days, everyone will be wearing new clothes bought months in advance in anticipation of the celebrations.

But the most important tradition upheld by my family is the Eid breakfast. After early morning prayers, whether with the whole family or just one or two people, we must always have a feast for breakfast. We talk and laugh and share stories, and our love becomes a physical force that is coaxed out with delicious food.

I have recently moved out from my family home so this is my first Eid where I will be away from them, as they are travelling without me. In their absence I will truly stuff myself with food while wearing a new outfit and remembering the spirit of family.

Akeela Ahmed

Akeela Ahmed is the founder of She Speaks, We Hear.

Eid al-Adha is very significant to my family and I, as it’s a time when we can come together in joyous celebration while remembering the importance of sacrifice, and doing things for others. It is a good and positive way to remind ourselves of the benefits of remembering God, family and also Hajj - the five day pilgrimage that millions of Muslims undertake every year.

Each year we start the day with a visit to the mosque for Eid prayers. Then we get dressed up and buy sweets for family and friends that we will be visiting later on that day, unless we are hosting Eid, which means lots of cooking.

Some Eid celebrations start with early morning prayers in the mosque

In our family on Eid it is traditional to eat a lamb dish, such as lamb pilau. Recently we have started to make roast lamb served on a bed of rice with dill. We also serve a range of Asian snacks and side dishes such as samosa, kebabs and meat pastries, with traditional Indian sweets.

When I was a child, we wouldn’t exchange gifts; instead, we would receive £5 from each of our aunts and uncles. Nowadays I buy gifts for my children and nieces and nephews, so in many ways Eid celebrations are becoming similar to Christmas; it’s nice to have the best of both cultures. 

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet, and is currently a member of the House of Lords.

Eid is predominately an amazing survival exercise of juggling family, food and frocks. It all starts the evening before Eid, known as chaand raat, with intricate henna patterns being applied to hands and glass bangles that match Eid outfits being purchased to start the celebrations.

The early morning on the day itself is a mad dash to Eid prayers, with various pots of half-cooked food being left on timers with our fingers crossed – my signature dish is lamb leg slow roasted in yoghurt.

“Food is always the focus at each family gathering at Eid”

After prayers it’s a visit to my parents-in-law followed by my parents, but first we make a short stop at the cemetery to remember and pray for those that no longer celebrate with us.

Food is always the focus at each family gathering, and with presents for the young ones and suitable amounts of cash for the teens, the constant exchanging of gifts is a central part of Eid. Then Eid evening is always a get together at ours, by which time the frock is feeling a little too tight!

Dina Torkia 

Dina Torkia is a blogger and YouTuber. She was named by YouTube as a Creator for Change in 2017 and is the author of the forthcoming book, Modestly, out from Ebury Press on 20 September.

Eid is important to me because it’s the equivalent to Christmas and Easter. We get two celebrations every year and if we don’t make an effort to mark them, then I guess we lose a part of our faith. 

I have two kids now so Eid will mainly be about them and creating a fun friends, food and family filled day. What I tend to find here in the UK is that the celebrations are often extended by a week, or even a fortnight, so you’ll always find an Eid party left to attend. That’s simply because not everyone can take time off work to celebrate it during the actual days, so everyone works around one another to ensure we’ve all celebrated together in some way! 

A great Eid tradition that mainly youngsters and teens love is ‘eddiya’, which is when the older members of the family give money to the younger ones. They end up with stacks of cash that they can then go and splurge on outings with their mates. It’s not just immediate family members that are generous, it’s also uncles, cousins, grandparents and other relatives and family friends you might see on the day. 

Shelina Janmohamed

Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World.

Eid is a time to put the crazy grind of life on pause and reflect on family, friends and faith. If possible, we go as a family for Eid prayers. We get dressed up, including my two little girls. Even though it means an early start, there’s something exciting about rushing out of bed to come together with everyone in prayer.

The rest of the day is spent with family. Sometimes we have a big get together at home, but we’ve also been trying out new ways to celebrate. Most recently we did a big outing to the seaside where we sat on the beach and ate fish and chips! 

For me, my main focus on Eid is ensuring the kids have an incredible time. We have this quirky tradition where we take them to a toy shop the night before and let them choose a toy (within a set budget, of course). When they get home they get a new pair of pyjamas. It creates an atmosphere of excitement, as well as highlighting that Eid is about having a fresh start.

All the mistakes we made, and all the things we wish we hadn’t done, can be put behind us, because Eid is the beginning of something wonderful. 

Images: Unsplash