Blog: Celebrating in the Pandemic

Growing up Ramadan and Eid were big celebrations in my household.  Family gatherings, food, and presents.  Ramadan is the Holy Month for Muslims. We fast from sunrise to sunset and each night we break the fast (Iftar) with a big feast and a lot of family/friends.  The point of Ramadan is getting closer to your faith and God.  What is most important about Ramadan is that it teaches you self-discipline, self-control and teaches you empathy for those who are less fortunate.  Ramadan lasts for a month.  Every year Ramadan shifts back 10 days, because the Islamic calendar is lunar, meaning each month begins with the new astronomical moon.

At the end of the month is Eid al-Fitr, also known as Festival of Breaking the Fast.  It marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.  This was always my favorite holiday!  When I was younger, people came over for the big meal after prayers.  Kids had to go up to the adults and kiss their hand as a sign of respect and say Eid Mubarak (Blessed Feast/festival) and we would get money and chocolate.  When you were a kid five dollars and a chocolate bar was gold in your eyes!

I don’t have as much family in the US as I do in Europe.  Since the war in Bosnia in 1992, everyone has spread out between Germany, Austria and France.  My parents still tried to make a big celebration for my sister and I when we were kids with neighbors, we met in the apartment building we lived in and that made the holidays better and somewhat more normal.  Normal, nowadays, is something we can’t wait to get back to.

Since the pandemic hit, we haven’t been able to celebrate like I’m used to.  Gatherings have been really small, and we haven’t been able to hug anyone and feel that human contact that we crave for ourselves.  I always described Eid to my friends as our Christmas, big family feast and presents!  Holiday celebration, whatever it may be, has impacted a lot of people and not being able to see their kids, grandkids, or even parents has been very difficult.

When the first lockdown happened and it was getting closer to Ramadan and Eid, I told my mom that we might have to celebrate virtually and just try to get together next year.  My mom’s response “are you crazy!  We have never done that, we will just keep it very small, but I am not going to miss out on seeing you and your sister.” 2020 was the first time we just celebrated with my parents, my sister, and my husband.  The last time it was that small was when we first moved to Chicago in 1999 and barely knew anybody.

There is now a light at the end of the tunnel!  Life is slowly but surely getting back to what it was.  We just have to be a little more patient, and know that this too will pass, and we all will be able to hug our kids, grandkids, parents and grandparents and feel that connection with them once again!

By Meliha Suljic (Mel)

April 12, 2021