Eased restrictions come just in time for family, friends to celebrate Eid

While 600-person prayer gatherings, mall hopping and large family events are not in the cards for the Muslim community this year, New Brunswick's relaxed restrictions still come just in time for the Eid al-Fitr this weekend.

Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, is a big feasting celebration for Muslim people around the world, said Abdul Rahimi, the Saint John Muslim Association president.

"Everyone is wearing their nicest clothes, or they are buying new things … and this gives everyone the excuse to go shopping," he said, but this hasn't been possible because of the COVID-19 state of emergency the province has been under for the past two months.

He said normally people would be meeting at the mosque for prayers followed by sermons, then music and a huge potluck meal. 

"Every single family who lives in Saint John who attend Eid prayer will bring their homemade dish, something with their own personal touch for everyone to enjoy," he said. It's another thing that will not be possible this year, as the 500 to 1,500 person crowds these celebrations can attract would go against the province's rules against mass gatherings.

Thank goodness for social media for keeping all our hearts connected - Abdul Rahimi, Saint John Muslim Association.

So what will people do instead?

Rahimi said they'll be praying and celebrating at home with their loved ones.

But, that can now include a few more people than has been allowed in recent weeks..

On Friday, Premier Blaine Higgs announced the province will be moving to the third phase of recovery, the "yellow phase" where people can extend their close-contact bubble to more family and friends.

Chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday she recommends people still keep their gatherings to 10 people or less, and continue to limit contact with people most vulnerable to the respiratory illness, such as the elderly or people with compromised immune systems.

Rahimi said social media will also help connect people whose family members might not even be in the same country.

"Thank goodness for social media for keeping all our hearts connected which allows us to wish each other happy Eid online," he said. 

He said he's "disappointed" that this is how Eid must be this year, but "everybody's safety and health is our priority."