Manitoba Muslim community celebrates Eid for the second time during COVID-19

Muslims in Winnipeg are coming up with new ways to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, under a second year of COVID-19 restrictions.

Osaed Khan and his family, whose SUV was decorated with window markers and had colourful balloons flying through the sunroof, were among those in line Thursday at a drive-thru in the parking lot of the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street in Winnipeg.

“We’re celebrating Eid in a new way during COVID,” Khan said.

“The celebration is important. The kids love it and they want to still keep the feeling of the celebration of Eid during these challenging times.”

One of Khan’s sons told CBC News he was looking forward to the goodie bag because they looked “really yummy” from what he saw.

Ramadan is the Islamic holy month of fasting from dawn until sunset and heightened spiritual observance. It is a time of coming together as a community for prayer and feasting. Eid is a religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

In years past, hundreds of people from the local Muslim community would congregate at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg for a massive celebration. Families and friends would hug, exchange gifts and share a meal together. Some would then keep the party going by inviting people to their homes.

We’re celebrating Eid in a new way during COVID.– Osaed Khan

But COVID-19 has twice stopped Muslims from doing any of that, forcing the community to celebrate apart for the sake of public health.

“Celebrating Eid in the pandemic is a tough one. It’s a difficult thing,” said Urooj Danish of the Manitoba Islamic Association, who was working the drive-thru Thursday.

“We’re just trying to keep everyone’s spirit high and keeping everybody safe.”

During the pandemic, Islamic institutions are abiding by the public health orders, Danish said.

As of Sunday, that means all religious gatherings are prohibited and must move online.

Urooj Danish of the Manitoba Islamic Association says she can’t wait until the pandemic ends and the community can celebrate the religious holiday as it once did. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Prayers were streamed over the internet and drive-thru events, such as Thursday’s, were held instead of in-person gatherings, Danish says.

This year, the volunteers from the Islamic association wanted to spice up the Eid drive-thru. Instead of just picking up the goodie bag, the volunteers asked members of the community to decorate their vehicles, Danish says.

The volunteers will take photos of each decorated vehicle and the owner of the vehicle they thought was the best will win an Eid gift card.

People CBC News spoke with Thursday said children are disappointed they don’t get to see their friends and celebrate as normal. But the kids are taking it in stride.

“Your family can’t come over and give you the candy you usually get because of COVID,” said Usaid Habib. “The drive-thru is pretty good.”

His brother, Sahad, says he misses being able meet with his extended family, but is also happy to get the goodie bag.

In normal times, the Islamic association would have held a carnival in the same parking lot that held the drive-thru, she says.

“I can’t wait for everything to get back to normal,” Danish said.

WATCH | Muslims in Manitoba have found creative ways to celebrate Eid:

Today, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid — the end of Ramadan, a month-long fast. Normally this is a time for big gatherings in Manitoba’s Muslim community, but for the second year in row, the pandemic has quashed any in-person celebrations. 1:52