Muslims around B.C. celebrated with large in-person gatherings on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr on Monday, the first time they were to come together in two years.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the month of Ramadan, during which observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day. The day is usually marked with prayers, sharing of food and communal gatherings.
Monday saw a large celebration at B.C. Place stadium in Vancouver, with more than 7,000 people in attendance according to the organizers, the Vancouver chapter of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC).
"Really what goes through my mind is really appreciating those moments," said volunteer Nour Enayeh. " We have been deprived of them for two years. Right now, it means even more than [it] used to before."
In-person gatherings have been allowed in B.C. without public health restrictions for over a month, but gathering limits were in place on and off ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the nearly 100,000 Muslims that live in B.C., an in-person Eid was very meaningful, according to Enayeh.
"Very difficult to not be with friends … usually, a prayer at the end of Ramadan is something we all look forward to because we know we're going to see everyone," she said. "And then suddenly for two years, we were deprived [of] this."
"The feeling of community that we used to take for granted, as a given, we know how important it is and how valuable it is in our life."
Eid is a culmination of a month of giving and charity, according to Fouad Abbassi, director of civic engagement with the MAC.
He says the huge celebration at the stadium, which included a prayer at the start, was reflective of the joyous mood in the community.
"Absolutely ecstatic. I could not ask for a better turnout," he told CBC News. "Definitely we did see an uptick this year … we think it is related to the two-year hiatus and the COVID restrictions that we lived through.
"People wanted this so bad. They want to celebrate, want to get close to their friends and relatives."
Given that Eid is often celebrated with friends and relatives embracing each other, Abbassi said the past two years were tough for the community.
"As soon as the sermon ends, the first thing that Muslims do is greet each other by hugging and kissing. And you kiss at least like 10, 11 people," he said. "It's an obligation between each other to congratulate each other on a wonderful occasion."
Abbassi said the organizers of Monday's event had very short notice to do so, given most restrictions were only dropped in B.C. in March.
"We scrambled to try to get something happening. And we're very happy and fortunate. And we thank God for that, to make that happen for everyone today."