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     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

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Straight Talk

Recreating the Spirit of Eid

Nadia Kabir Barb

As we bid farewell to the holy month of Ramadan and Eid is almost upon us, I find myself reminiscing about my childhood in Dhaka where Eid was an occasion we used to look forward to with great excitement and anticipation. It still makes me smile when I remember how my cousins and I could not wait to see each other and show off our new clothes, which had been meticulously chosen including even the colour of our hair band. Our enthusiasm would not abate even when we had chosen exactly the same outfits! We would then spend time chattering away, eating scrumptious food all day and visiting other relatives. Unlike Dhaka where everyone is getting ready to celebrate Eid, in London and possibly most countries that are non Islamic, it is up to oneself to make Eid a special occasion and not let it pass by as just another regular day filled with our day to day activities. This is particularly hard if you have no family nearby or you are new to a country and have not established any firm relationships or contacts. It can be a rather lonely time for many people.

In Bangladesh as Ramadan comes to an end, the pre- Eid activities seem to become more and more frenzied. The shops are flooded with the latest designs of saris and <>shalwar kameezes<>, trendy <>kurta-pyjamas<> are displayed to entice the male population and even the children have a wide variety of choice. Then of course there is always the last minute shopping for new shoes for the kids or condiments to prepare ones favourite "shemai" or "firni", or the last of the <>zakat<> to be given! However, back here in London, life goes on as usual. The kids go to school, offices are open and the shops display their usual goods. There are no holidays, no lights to decorate the shops and hotels nor are there any indications to show that it is such a special day for the Muslim community. It is only noticeable in parts of London where there is a large concentration of Muslims such as East London where there is a large Bangladeshi contingent. A little glimpse of the Bangladeshi enclave shows us a different scene to the one we see in most parts of London. The air is abuzz with the expectancy that accompanies Eid. It is almost worth going down to the East End just to take in the atmosphere.

One of the things that I have appreciated about celebrating Eid in London is the ability to say my Eid prayers in Regents Park Mosque. The mosque which was established in 1944 has become a familiar feature on the London skyline with its enormous golden dome and is one of the few mosques that allow women to pray in a section especially designated for ladies. There are usually a few different times for the Eid prayers but no matter when you go it is absolutely packed. This usually creates chaos outside the mosque where there is a constant flow of pedestrians walking to and from the Mosque and cars are parked everywhere. Some in their haste to get to the prayers on time make the mistake of parking inappropriately and have the unpleasant surprise of a ticket awaiting them on their return. It is a wonderful sight to see Muslims of all ages and ethnic backgrounds gather together and celebrate Eid.

Having spent Ramadan in Dhaka and celebrated Eid there numerous times, my children are now always keen to recreate their positive experiences here in London. So every year we celebrate Eid by getting together with family and close friends in one place, either for lunch or dinner. The children dress up in their new clothes and meet their aunts and uncles. Now that the children are a little older, they are also aware of the fact that many of their relatives give them an "eidee" which only enhances their enjoyment of the day! Even when I am trying to explain to them that getting an "eidee" is not the main aspect of Eid, I am transported back to days where I used to accompany my father to go visiting. The highlight of those visits was going to see an Uncle who was a family friend and receiving a crisp white envelope with Tk 25 in it! But the interesting thing was he had a specific number of these envelopes and he gave them to anyone who went to visit him regardless of age. Thus not only would I come away with my treasured 25 taka but so would my father. It is sometimes difficult with Christmas following hard on the heels of Eid in the last few years to get the children not to compare the two events. This is due to the fact that the whole of London gears up for the countdown to X-mas in much the same way as we do for Eid in Bangladesh. However, it really is up to us to make Eid as special a day as we can not just for our children but for ourselves too.



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