When Muslims describe Eid celebrations to people of other faiths, many will say it is the equivalent of Christmas – a loud and joyful festival of prayer, gifts, and fun with friends and family.
But in Leicester – one of Britain’s most vibrant multicultural cities – this year’s Eid al-Adha seems a little more low-key.
With the city still closed and restrictions only due to be lifted on Monday, religious leaders and councils have reminded people not to congregate in mosques and everyone has been encouraged to stay at home.
The celebrations began Thursday evening and will continue through Monday evening.
For Jawaahir Daahir, explaining to his three-year-old grandson Kamil that Eid would not go as planned was “heartbreaking”.
“He was on the phone saying ‘I want to come to your grandmother, I want to come to your grandma’ and I was like ‘you can’t come now’ because I live in Leicester, ‘she said.
“It’s so sad – what can you say? It is so difficult for children to understand. “
Usually, Ms. Daahir’s house was full of her family at that time – her six children, her in-laws and her grandson.
After going to the mosque for prayer, there were hugs with friends, candy for the kids, and a range of specially prepared meals and gifts at home.
The family also organized outings together – whether for restaurant meals or for walks to local beauty spots.
This year, although Ms. Daahir still prepares some of the traditional food, those who enjoy it will be limited to those who live in her house – her mother and one of her daughters.
“Basically we won’t be leaving the house,” she said. “We will still pray at home and talk to our families, but it won’t be the same. ”
Ms Daahir said she believed the lockdown would have a ripple effect on celebrations across the city.
“This is the time when people buy gifts and clothes, so it will affect businesses as well,” she says.
‘Wasn’t meant to be’
Leicester was placed in an extended lockdown on June 29 and a recent review said places of worship could reopen fully from Monday – when Eid ends.
Like some parts of northern England, residents have been advised not to meet different households in their homes and gardens and gatherings in parks should be limited to six people.
It was the second time Muslims in Leicester have marked a festival that has been locked out after the fall of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr in April and May.
Leicester’s Patel family had planned to perform the Hajj in Mecca this weekend, but had to postpone it until next year.
The annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia’s sacred site would typically attract up to two million worshipers, but this year all tourists and those over 65 have been banned.
“I am devastated,” said Imran Patel.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go and we honestly thought it was our moment, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The family had been planning the pilgrimage for two years and was hoping to make the trip after Mr. Patel suffered a severe heart attack.
“For Eid this year, everyone is distant. We can’t celebrate like we normally would, but I hope it won’t be for long, ”he said.
“I wanted to finish my Hajj before I turned 40 next year, but you never know what’s around the corner. I’m feeling fit and fine right now, but who knows, this time next year, I might not be. ”
Leicester City Council advised people to limit travel, social contact and gatherings during Eid and urged people to “find new ways to safely worship, pray and celebrate together”.
He said: “We know that prayer in congregation is an important part of many religious practices and unfortunately this has not been possible for many months now due to the increased risk of transmission of Covid-19. ”
Imam Dr Hafiz Ather said this year’s Eid is a time for people to be positive and grateful.
“Normally a prayer starts on Eid day at a local mosque, but unfortunately we won’t be able to do it here in Leicester,” he said.
“We will always be able to spend time in prayer at home. We will always have a great meal and share stories and memories with our children and we will remain optimistic.
“It’s difficult this year. It is unprecedented. But at the same time, we’re just happy to be alive. “
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