My town’s major Islamic society, which in fact is a conglomerate of about a dozen masjids and a couple of Islamic schools, had it in their website since June of this year. Their August events calendar marked August 19 Sunday as Eid ul Fitr. This group is part of broader North American platform which has adopted nearly 100% reliable scientific calculation of moon sighting forecast and decides Roja, Eid, etc. based on that calendar. There are two other groups. My local mosque still believes in Prophet Muhammad’s (SM) tradition of sighting the moon and deciding the Eid. Once a credible moon sighting information will be received, the mosque will update its website, send an automated email to its email server and automated SMS will also go to thousands of subscribers. I wonder, after doing all these stuff, whether the head Maolana of my local mosque will go home driving a motor vehicle or in recognition of Prophet’s values, will ride his camel back home. Then there is another group of Muslims who will always follow Saudi Arabian schedule.
Back in desh, the evening of 28th Roja used to be a fun night. Immediately after Iftar, everybody will throng to the part of the locality where the sky has the most unobstructed view. Dhaka skyline was much closer to the earth those days. It was one of the evenings you are allowed to stay out even after sunset. Everyone will be looking at the west sky where it meets the horizon. “Does anyone see the moon? Is it anywhere?” Suddenly a part of the crowd starts showing more activity. Someone pointing finger at some distant faint crescent shaped mark at the far bottom end of the sky. “There – there is the moon!” Kids start jumping, tokais’ start fun rally. Older kids run back home to give the news to people at home. Some older folks still trying to locate the thing with the help of others. Hundreds of raised hands in a disciplined choreographic fashion will be pointing finger at the same angle.
The first sign of official recognition of the moon sighting will be evident with radio or TV starting to play the immortal song, “O mon Romjaner oi rojar sheshe elo khushir Eid…” Mothers will jump to mountain heap of work at the kitchen. Sisters will start home decorations. Washed curtains, bed sheets will be ironed. The living room will get a makeover. Radio TV news will start their broadcast with the greetings, “Eid Mubarak”. A long list of mosques and the prayers times at the mosques will be broadcast in national news.
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Here in North America it matters which city you are in during Eid. If you are in New York, it will be a totally different experience compared to the rest of the country. In deshi market places, you will start feeling the vibe of Eid starting from the beginning of Roja. On the night before Eid, if you happen to be driving through any of the Bangladeshi rich localities and shopping concentrations like Jackson Heights area, you will see swelling crowds and open stores way past closing time. Grocers are busy processing fresh meat — there is a long line outside. For people from some parts of Bangladesh and almost all of the Pakistani’s, this is the ‘Chand Raat’, an essential part of the Eid celebration. Women, young-aged, well dressed, thronging together in Jackson Heights beauty parlours for henna decorations, some are busy with last moment shopping. Jackson Heights business district will remain open the whole night. If you drive around farther, you will see dozens of young volunteers busy making makeshift parking arrangements for the local Eid congregations.
Eid countdown used to begin immediately after the beginning of Roja. 25 more days to go, 20 more days, 10 more days, intense excitement would grip our whole childhood day. The closer the Eid would come, the excitement would keep rising. Eid shopping would be the major part of Eid celebrations. Dhaka used to have only a few major market places for Eid shopping. New Market, Gausia and Mouchak market. Mothers and aunts will be busy sewing shirts, dresses, etc. Does anyone in Bangladesh sew their own clothing anymore? The local tailor shops will be working in a 24/7 schedule. The tailor shops were interesting. The shops used to have an upper floor where young men will be cutting and sewing clothes day and night. They will literally work sleepless until the night before Eid. Eid dresses will be kept under utmost secrecy. No one may see the dresses before Eid day.
As Lunar Hizri cycle migrates from season to season, not all the Eid fall in summer time here in North America. We had a different kind of Eid one winter. I used to live in New York City. Since childhood I prayed Eid Jamaat in so many different situations, in our local masjid, street in front of the masjid, local Eidgah, village riverside Eid moydan, in torrential rain, on muddy grounds. That year when Eid came in New York City, the whole city was under a few inches of snow, more snow still pouring. So, it was an Eid on the snow, knee deep. The preparation for the Eid jamaat was quiet unique. Rather than ator, shurma and tupi, we were donned with layers of thermal, jeans, panjabi (At least to bring an Eid vibe) under a thick parka/ long coat, knee high snow boot, and head gear / monkey cap and hand gloves. The expedition to snow covered Eid Jamaat went mostly uneventfully except a $105.00 ticket for parking on the snow emergency route.
Sleeping was most difficult thing to do on the night before Eid. Will wake up very early in the morning and keep impatiently waiting for the sun rise and rest of family to wake up. Since fazr prayers, local mosques will start chorus competition of intense Eid Mubarak chants. We used to run out to neighbour’s sheuli flower tree to pick all the flowers that fell overnight. Flower is an essential item of Eid decoration. Hardly there was any flower shop then. You need flower, go to neighbours’ front yards, break some patabahar brunches, and pick some flower from here and there. Be it sunny day, be it rainy day be it cloudy day — the world would look several shades brighter and colourful on the Eid day. People, with their bright white Panjabi Pajama, going to Eid Jamaat; little kids from modest households strolling around in groups in very colourful dresses would start the day with the most positive spirit.
Soon after prayer and feasting on returning home, a second set of clothes will replace the panjabi/ pajama. And go out at friends’ places. It is a day long campaign — how many homes you can visit by evening. It used to be, I guess it still is, a universal open house day. Every household is open to all guests, ready to feed with the traditional sweet like shemai, jorda, payesh; some traditional meal item like khichuri, etc.
Halfway in the afternoon, go to a local grocery store, sit on the bench in front with all the buddies and use the money earned as Eid salami to order one ice cold Coke. The Coke will bring forth a heavenly feeling. Drinking a Coke used to be once a year event in Dhaka of 70s. While slowly and patiently pouring the coke in from the bottle in little sips, the wish would have been to keep this feeling going for an eternity — let this intense enjoyment never end. It is also one other day in the year you won’t have to return home by sunset. However you would return home soon after. There would be Eid drama and Eid Ananda Mela in the only TV channel. The drama and the Ananda Mela used to be the events people would wait for the whole year and those TV events would remain the top talking points over the upcoming months to years. As there was only one TV channel everyone will watch the same thing and could talk about with everybody else.
Most of North America is not like New York. In almost all other town here in USA or other part of the world, Eid comes and goes very quietly. Bengali Muslims try to enjoy themselves by being innovative. Cities after city invent new ways to enjoy themselves and also let the children get a vibe of the festivities of Eid. Some place there would be a potluck feast at the mosque. In some cities groups of family will keep on hopping from one pre-assigned host homes to another host home. It is kind of a relay race of feasting. The earlier you finish feasting at one home, you can start for the next host home. In some cities there may also be a community potluck dinner at night and there definitely would be another feasting in the name of post Eid reception a couple of weeks after Eid.
Here in a midsize southeastern US city we are also getting ready to celebrate our Eid tomorrow. The kids will go to Chand Raat festivities tonight to have the palms painted with henna. To make them be aware of Eid and look forward to Eid every year and so that they themselves can convey this tradition to their kids when they grow up – they were presented with dresses and toys. They will get to open their wrapped surprise gifts tomorrow after Eid Jamaat. In our thousands of years’ Bengali Muslim tradition – Eids are the greatest festivals. We thrive to keep the tradition alive through the generations in this faraway land.
Eid Mubarak to you all, my dear readers. Eid Mubarak.
Rumi Ahmed is a blogger and writes from Florida, USA