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Connect at Christmas: Muslim leaders offer advice for Christmas as they reflect on a very different Eid in lockdown

Sumon Hoque at a previous Eid in the Garden.
Sumon Hoque at a previous Eid in the Garden.

There is no need to struggle to imagine what it is going to be like navigating a major holiday under pandemic conditions – just ask any of Britain’s Muslims.

Faith leaders have been reflecting on marking a very different Eid in lockdown – and have learned no shortage of useful lessons about how to make the best of Christmas.

Eid al-Fitr, also called the “festival of breaking the fast”, is one of Islam’s two major holidays celebrated worldwide.

It begins when the moon rises on the final day of Ramadan as Muslim communities mark the end of a month of fasting.

Three-day long celebrations would typically include prayers at local mosques and extended family gatherings but this year was very different, and difficult, for many who had to celebrate online.

In Aberdeen, the annual Eid in the Garden event which would normally have a mixture of world food, BBQ, children’s activities, henna painting and information stalls was cancelled.

Organiser Sumon Hoque was unable to see his children or family during the festival and had to celebrate the weekend on Zoom instead.

“I’m a single parent so couldn’t be with my kids and couldn’t see them over Eid,” he said.

“It was all done over Zoom – it’s good, although there’s nothing like a hug.

“For me this was a big thing as I organised the events and doing that I then went to being on my own with family and kids I couldn’t see.

“It wasn’t the best of Eids but then I thought it can only get better – it’s the same for the festive season.”

Eid isn’t a national holiday in the UK but the majority of Muslims take time off work so they can celebrate with their family.

As everyone adapted to the circumstances, an online celebration and restrictions in place at the time resulted in many losses.

“During Ramadan when you’re fasting you’re meant to go to the mosque everyday – that was banned,” Mr Hoque said.

A big loss was also felt financially as many donate to their mosque during the festival which contributes to the yearly running cost – and the same is expected to happen to churches at Christmas.

Coming up the the festive period, Mr Hoque shared some advice on how to get through a very different Christmas.

“My suggestion would be to do a big Zoom party with family and play games with the kids.

“You can do so many different things on Zoom, it’s not going to be the same as it was last year as the main spirit of the festive season is people loving people.

“You can try and hype it up as much as you like. The reality is, it’s going to be a bit of a downer so it is important to manage people’s expectations.”

He urged people to reach out to others and ask them how they are as many will find it tough, especially the elderly.

As well as this, Mr Hoque added that people should take the time to reflect and if possible “at least have somebody to break bread with”.

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