What it’s like to celebrate Eid while social distancing

Every Eid al-Fitr, my house becomes packed to the gills with guests. I can hear my mom moving around in the kitchen, preparing heaps upon heaps of food, over the loud chatter of my cousins around me.

This Eid is different, though. My house is silent. My mom is still cooking, but this has become a source of irritation rather than salivation. This too-hot house becomes even hotter as she operates the stove. I feel like I’m being boiled alive.

We try to make the best of it. The day before, my sister still puts henna on my hands. I text all of my friends Eid Mubarak, and they return the sentiment with plenty of heart emojis. Despite myself, I think of my cousins who should be sitting next to me instead of us FaceTiming each other to show our outfits.

There is no Eid prayer in the morning. Instead, an imam live streams the prayer. There are no large family celebrations when the state of Virginia mandates that a maximum of ten people can gather publicly or privately.

I feel melancholy, but it makes sense. Coronavirus can spread person to person from coughing, sneezing, and even talking. Slowing down the infection means flattening the curve, which will avoid overwhelming the healthcare system. These words make a compelling argument, but I still feel joyless.

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated worldwide after fasting from dawn-to-sunset for thirty days in the month of Ramadan. It is the only day in its month where Muslims are not permitted to fast.

And so, we eat. Our usual party of dozens becomes one much, much smaller, but that’s okay. My mom dresses my sister and me in sarees, a traditional Bengali garment. Both of my parents talk on the phone with people they haven’t caught up with this entire year, wishing them well.

I feel conflicted, not sure whether to mourn what could’ve been or be grateful for what we do have. Instead, I scroll through Instagram, liking everyone’s posts of themselves in their Eid outfits and standing in front of their houses.

All I can really do is have hope for the day where we can congregate in a mosque safely, where we can hug one another, where we can invite one another into our houses again. One thing is clear to me. The more we act responsibly, the sooner this will all be over.