The separation anxiety has been difficult. While you came last two years, we could not really host and celebrate you to our heart's content highlighting the pervasive nature of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But now, after two full years, we meet again and it looks like you ushered in a whole new wave of joy to our homes.
With no stringent Covid-19 protocols in place (except in 26 cities in China), The Business Standard reached out to Muslims residing around the world to ask what they associate Eid with, and how the pandemic altered their celebrations in the last two years and their plans for this year's special occasion.
From one refugee camp in Bangladesh and eight countries, it became obvious that the common threads that string together Eid-ul-Fitr, regardless of the location, are still family and food, but this year, there is renewed joy.
TBS also asked what they most fondly looked forward to this year's Eid after a two-year hiatus. "Making biryani with mom and getting her to spill her secrets about the recipe," said Ahmed Sherrif, a freelance video producer based in Trichy, India.
Warm hearts and full stomachs
While Ahmed's favourite Eid food "has to be mom's sheer khurma," he added.
Ahmed pointed out that the pandemic did not only alter Eid celebrations but also impacted the month of Ramadan fasting that precedes Eid-ul-Fitr. "The local mosque here makes kanji (porridge) to be distributed for Iftari," said Ahmed, "but since the lockdown, many homes who rely on it were not able to get it because the mosque committee was not able to arrange it. And many underprivileged families depend on it too, not just for nutrition also who took up jobs delivering kanji to homes."
This Eid was different for Ahmed's city in Tamil Nadu, he said "We had plenty of support and could easily share alms for people in need."
For Sena Asici, a waitress in Eskisehir, Turkey, Turkish baklava is an Eid favourite. "This Eid is much more exciting because there are no boundaries to celebrate," said Sena, adding that the Eid celebration is important for her family but not particularly for her. But she is still looking forward to "baklava and visiting touristy places with friends."
And for Alia Mokhtar living in Burnaby, British Columbia for nearly eight years, kahk, an Egyptian delicacy, is an Eid favourite. "My mom makes the kahk. There are a few bakeries around that make Arabic sweets but I haven't seen kahk at any of them."
"Eid has looked a little different since being in Canada as it's always harder to coordinate the time off and people don't all celebrate here so the general vibe is different but my family always gets together on Eid," said Alia, a Salesforce consultant, adding "the last two years were more low-key [because of the pandemic], but this year we are going out to a restaurant for dinner with extended family which will be lovely!"
Alia also calls her grandparents and the few uncles/aunts, on Eid day, who still live in Egypt.
Living away from home
Ezgi Tuzturk has been living in Oman for the past one year. She planned to visit Nizwa, one of the largest cities in Oman, where traditional Omani Eid celebrations are held; and also go on a picnic with friends.
"I feel a little sad about this Eid because I am away from my country [Turkey] and family and cannot celebrate with them," said Ezgi, who relocated for her husband's job, adding, "this Eid is also called "Eid of sweets" in Turkey, Because children come and knock on doors, say "happy eid" and we give them candies and chocolates. This is my favourite part of eid."
Ezgi reminisced about going to the homes of the elderly to visit. "We kiss their hands out of respect and they give us some eidi (amount of pocket money). We gather in the saloon to eat our traditional foods and lots of sweets. We take big family pictures."
Loobna Zahan, a Bangladeshi-American who has been living in Branford, Connecticut with her family since 2013, can relate. "Given that we don't have my extended family members here, it's hard to celebrate Eid as big and glamorously as we would like to," she said, adding, "I always love being able to wear my new Eid clothes and put henna on, because being in the United States, I don't really get to wear traditional clothes that often."
So that and having "Eid food [which includes the various kinds of sweets her family always buys from New York and haleem, shemai, biryani, and khichuri] together in my family are things that I look forward to.
It always hits home!" added the senior in the psychology department at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Loobna looks forward to going to the mosque at 7 am for Eid morning prayers with her friends this year since she is living on campus.
"[because of the pandemic] the past two years we weren't able to go pray the morning Eid prayer like we usually do [at the mosque]," Loobna added.
The spirit of Eid-ul-Fitr
Mujtaba Ebrahimi, director of Radio Bangla, IRIB World Service, is also happy that Covid-19 protocols have lifted in his city (Tehran, Iran) and people can "partake in Eid's prayer in the morning in mosalahs [places of public prayers], mosques and other public spaces."
For Ebrahimi, visiting his parent's house on Eid day is a "high priority," while most in Tehran usually go "to the north [popular vacation spot for good weather], visit the seas, the forests, they go out to the parks for recreation," which was not quite possible due to Covid-19 protocols over the last two years.
He also added, how "after one month of difficult and pure worship [Ramadan], the day of Eid-al-Fitr, is a day of purification" and "Muslims can come together, pray in unison and boast their unity and solidarity to the people of the world."
Ayo, who lives in Abuja, Nigeria and works in tech, sees Eid as "really just a reflective day" of sending love to other people, gifts, phone calls and prayers. She explained that Eid for her means, "sitting down and reflecting on what Ramadan was this year versus the year before and being able to track all my progress."
While for Ayo, she said, Eid is a big celebration, that is not quite the case for her family.
On the contrary, for Rida Fatima's family in Lahore, Pakistan, Eid is a huge deal. "We are busy till almost day four of Eid which is kind of uncommon even for most Pakistani families," she said, adding that truth be told, her family only skipped the first Eid celebrations of 2020, after the pandemic hit, "We did [scale down] for the previous ones due to the virus but celebrations never [really] stopped," she added.
The digital marketing manager also added "My brother got married this year and it's my first Eid with my new bhabhi [sister-in-law]. Very excited to spend the occasion with her and show her how we celebrate it."
While common threads of Eid celebrations are ever-present in most cities around the world, for a select few places, it is yet another reminder of the people's predicament.
Not always rainbows
Salim Ullah Armany, a 32-year-old Kutupalong Registered Camp resident in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, said "we pray in mosques inside the camp instead of fields [Eidgah]. This year, due to heightened security measures, we could only get biscuits, lacchi shemai and chanachur for Eid."
Moreover, he said, "within one kilometre, there are approximately four check posts inside the camp, so relatives were reluctant to take up the trouble and visit. Only the ones who are [extremely] nearby visited my family of four."
On the night of the second Eid day in Bangladesh, Armany had to end our phone call, saying "the police are doing the rounds, I have to go now. Eid Mubarak."
Not just in refugee camps, but Eid is not quite a happy experience in certain places because anti-Muslim sentiment is deepening or gaining ground: Uyghurs in China, Palestinians in Gaza, Rohingya in Myanmar, Muslim Indians to name just a few.
Ahmed Sherrif, the freelance video producer in Tamil Nadu, India said, while his community "is very tight-knit, the news that comes out is very depressing, people not having their homes to celebrate Eid [evicted Muslims in India in recent past] is a heart-wrenching thing.
I am pretty sure stories like that will have an impact on any celebration, let alone Eid."
Syed Raiyan Reza contributed to this article. He translated Mujtaba Ebrahimi's answers from Farsi to English.