We looked at each other longingly and it triggered what felt like my first out-of-body experience. It was incredibly surreal, bizzare, annoying.
A couple of nights ago, something was stirring within households all over the world. The blessed month of Ramadan was coming to an end and families were in deep discussion as to how they would celebrate the wonderful day of Eid-ul-Fitr, which celebrates the end of the holy month of fasting and the beginning of a fresh, more disciplined way of living.
All the conversations revolved around one single, uniting question: How do we celebrate while maintaining an appropriate level of social distancing?
My personal experience of planning what to do for Eid involved kicking out a member of my family from the Zoom chat after they suggested driving to Barnard Castle and having a picnic there. I’m pretty sure he didn’t notice who had kicked him out though…his eyesight is quite bad, which meant he couldn’t quite read the notification.
The day of Eid started relatively later than usual, as I avoided the usual frantic rush to the mosque at 6am so that we could get a space in the car park. Eid this year started 4 hours later for me, and the commute was a lot less arduous, involving 10 steps to the shower and then 5 steps to my prayer mat so that I could perform the Eid prayers.
We embarked on the usual rounds in the afternoon, my wife and I visiting our immediate families. This is when I received a reality check. Rather than receiving the usual fanfare and hugs that are associated with Eid, I saw two chairs placed neatly outside, at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the front door of my parent’s house. An invisible line was drawn, with my family on the other side.
We looked at each other longingly and it triggered what felt like my first out-of-body experience. It was incredibly surreal, bizzare, annoying. And we both knew it. After the initial emotions, we carried on our conversations while conscious of the curtains twitching from the neighbouring houses. Apparently there is a £60 rewards scheme here in the UK for those that report potential rule-breakers to the police. Today is the day I took that risk, as I already had roughly that amount in my pocket from the Eid money my parents gave me. (Yes, I’m nearly 30 and still receive it. It’s not like I received a house deposit or anything, so calm down!)
We spoke for a good hour or so at a volume where it was difficult to eavesdrop, although to be honest, half the time was spent grumbling about our bumbling Prime Minister and his handler. So the neighbours would have been nodding in agreement if anything.
We then fled the scene after we noticed a patrol car and went to my in-laws for a similar visit, followed by my wife’s grandparents’ house. It’s safe to conclude that we Muslims are quite a sensible bunch, practicing sensible social distancing and not stepping further than a foot from the doorstep when we visited our loved ones. It truly is all of our responsibility to do so, and with celebrations like these where the elderly especially crave company, it is important to find a solution that preserves both our physical and mental health. If it is door-stepping, then so be it.
We then stopped off at a place where those who are no longer with us reside. Eid is always a time where we remember those who can no longer celebrate with us. During these difficult times, where we have sadly lost more loved ones than I would dare to imagine, it is essential that we visit the graveyards to remind us of how fragile life is, and what is to come after.
There was a charming scene amidst the visitors, where a family was having a picnic next to the grave of their loved one. It seemed to me that the family had decided to spend their day with those they had lost, so that they could find them and spend time with them once again. Or something like that.
We then returned home after a relatively busy afternoon and unloaded all the sweets we had gathered from our travels. Eid is basically Muslim Trick or Treat, except that no houses get egged (unless you’re the devil himself).
What replaced the usual Eid family dinner was a Zoom quiz night. This was quite unique because instead of having a gathering with all the London based family members as per usual, we actually had the opportunity to reconnect with families from all over the world whom we normally would not get the opportunity to meet. Another silver lining! I was clearly overcome with this realisation and basked in this Eureka moment, which distracted me so much that I tanked the quiz. That’s the line I’m going with. I was so bad that my wife left halfway to “take a phone call”.
We reflected on the day that had passed, thanking God for the memories made, praying for the end of the pandemic and for the health of all those affected to be restored. We then tucked into some cheesecake and sunk into a well-deserved food coma, after a month where we had fasted for 18 hours. Some normality achieved in an ever-changing, tumultuous environment.
Cov-Eid Mubarak everyone!