Celebrating Eid When Family Lives in Different Cities
Eid is a special celebration for Muslims. It’s the time of food, festivals and family. Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. The word Eid is derived from an Arabic word meaning festivity, and a festivity it truly is! However it can often be difficult to balance celebrating such a joyous occasion when your families live in two different cities.
Freelance writer and mother of two Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed understands the balance required to incorporate both families into the celebration of Eid. She looks forward to this special time of year and teaching her two children, ages 6 and 4, about the values that she grew up with.
“Eid to me is the most special time of year, especially Eid ul-Fitr,” said Fariha. ” It represents, after 30 days of fasting, when you’re body and your heart are one, and spiritually you are feeling humbled. It’s a reward for fasting the whole month and for the extra prayers.”
Fariha knows that Eid is no longer the same as when she was a child and the celebration has come a long way. Born in Canada to parents who emigrated from Pakistan, she recognizes that in order to compete with the more commercialized holidays, her and her husband must make this celebration as exciting as possible.
“The children want to have the house decorated because that’s what happens at Christmas time. So we put up lights and decorations and the kids want to know how many days left until Eid.”
“Going shopping, buying all the gifts for all their cousins and extended family and then wrapping all the presents with the children. We love seeing their faces when they see a table full of Eid presents.”
Fariha grew up in Montreal and moved to Toronto when she married her husband Siddiq at the age of 20. Not only did she move to another city but she also married into another culture. Siddiq is Guyanese, a contrast from the predominantly Pakistani influenced culture in which Fariha was raised. She remembers how difficult it was to be away from her family during celebrations.
“It was my first Eid in a new family and a new culture. It was bittersweet because I did miss my family a lot,” said Fariha.
After five years in Toronto, they decided to move back to Fariha’s hometown of Montreal. With her husband having over 200 relatives in Toronto, religious celebrations became tricky. They realized they didn’t want to go two years without seeing some relatives and celebrations became quite stressful.
Fariha knows that having her in-laws living in another city needs to be handled delicately so that no one feels left out.
“It’s a balancing act anytime there are two families. Both of us are relatively close to our families so you have to respect that and in our case, both cultures and traditions as well,” said Fariha. “The first year it was hard because one Eid, half the family is saying how much they miss you and the other Eid, the other side is saying the same thing.”
Eid became a time of stress where they both felt pressured by their families. After much discussion, they decided to let their families know, that from thereon in, Eid ul-Fitr would be celebrated in Toronto every year and Eid ul-Adha in Montreal. This took the pressure off and settled each family.
“What I would suggest from my own experience is to make a list of pros and cons about doing Eid in each city. Add things up and see what makes the most sense and when you make your decision, share with the family that this is a united decision and not the husband pressuring the wife or the wife pressuring the husband into making a decision. It’s a very collective decision and we ask that you respect it.”
Now their children get to see both sides of the family and know in advance where they are going and when. It not only adds to their excitement but they also know that, coming from two culturally different families, they will get all of their favorite foods every Eid.
“The children are the product of two families and two cultures and something as simple as food can expose them to that.”
Although Fariha’s mother passed away when she was 21, she carries on the traditions that remind her of her childhood.
“There’s not a single day that I don’t miss my mom. As a mother myself, I have to take those special, warm, loving memories of my mom and share them with my children as best as I can.”
“I believe in sharing memories. The types of food nani ammi used to cook for us. The same way my mom used to take me the night before Eid and put henna on my hands is the same way I take my daughter and put henna on her hands. Setting aside her chooriyan with her clothes the night before Eid, her hair, her fancy shoes, all those little things that my mom used to do with me, I do that with my daughter and that brings me a lot of comfort.”
On the flip side, Fariha’s loves celebrating Eid in Toronto because of all the interesting traditions that her children learn from her mother in law.
“My mother in law has a tradition where she does Eid plates which consist of home baked goods filled with cakes, pastries, meat pies, baklava, candies and 95% of everything is homemade. The women will be baking for a few days leading up to Eid and then on Eid day, we get these beautiful glass platters and fill them to the brim with all these goodies that we’ve been preparing and you wrap it with cellophane and lots of beautiful colored ribbon and it’s a very special tradition.”
One year, Fariha, Siddiq and their children were too sick to make the drive to Toronto to spend Eid with her in-laws. So her mother in law decided to bring Eid to them. She says, “My mother in law ended up making a huge care package. She packed all the little pineapple tarts, filled containers with curry and roti, the Guyanese biryani, all the little things she had made and she sent it to us that night and it arrived on Eid morning. She had sent Eid to us. It was very touching.”
Fariha understands the importance of incorporating both cultures into her family traditions and ensuring that her children know where they come from.
“It’s very important for our kids to know both sides of their family. It took us awhile to figure out how to balance that and certain compromises had to be made for the best of our own household. But I think we’ve finally got it.”