After 30 days of fasting, Muslims across B.C. are getting ready for Eid, the Islamic celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. This year, Eid falls on May 1 and 2.
While every family celebrates differently, the occasion is commonly marked by food and togetherness, and for some, a longing for extended family and community.
For Aboubacar Cisse, 22, Eid is one of the most beautiful holidays.
"On the day of Eid you just wake up with that beautiful feeling … It's a day full of joy, it's a day full of food," said the University of Northern British Columbia student, who also plays on the men's soccer team.
"For me Ramadan is a month of peace, a month of redemption, and a month of forgiveness," he added.
Recalling family memories
After waking up early for prayers at the mosque, Cisse says his family, along with other relatives, gather at home to celebrate and eat.
"You'll never be hungry on Eid, there's always food," he said.
He recalls his late grandmother baking muffins that would tempt him to break his fast back when he was younger, he says. Though children are not required to fast during Ramadan, many choose to.
One year, he says, he ate so many muffins on Eid that he threw up.
"My mom was a little mad at me," he says. "I wanted to eat what other people were having because it looked very good, but I was not able to eat because I ate so much muffins."
This year's Ramadan also marks the first time large gatherings are resuming for Eid since the COVID pandemic began.
"This Ramadan's takeaway was how incredible and amazing it has been for the Muslim community to come back together… it was as though it had never stopped," said Zainab bint Younus, a community outreach co-ordinator at Dar Al-Ihsan Islamic Centre in Victoria.
Younus' family has a tradition of spending Eid with extended family at her grandmother's house, she says. They celebrate by dressing up, spending time together and eating lots of food.
Younus says she is excited to share Eid traditions with her 12-year-old daughter and that her favourite part of Eid is "the warmth of family enveloping everyone … just that closeness with each other."
Empathy for refugees
For 17-year-old Razan Kora, Ramadan this year offered her insights into the lives of Syrian refugees, who sometimes have to go extended periods without food or water, she says.
Also from Syria, Kora is currently a high school student at Prince George Secondary School.
"It made me realize that having food and water in your daily basis is the biggest blessing in your life," Kora said.
She adds that when she lived in Syria, Eid is celebrated together with extended family, whereas she presently celebrates it with her immediate family.
"Eid means family getting together … enjoy the day, spend the whole day with them, and just enjoy the moment with them," she said.
A source of peace
Umemah Siddiqui, 19, says celebrating Eid in Canada is quieter than in Pakistan, where family and friends would stop by their home throughout the day.
"Living in Canada is just a sense of loneliness that never really goes away so it's nice to see that on Eid people reunite," said the first-year student at Thompson River University in Kamloops.
Wearing nice clothing is essential to the occasion, she adds, saying her family usually goes to a Pakistani boutique to get clothing for Eid. But this year, her Eid outfit was brought home by her mother, from her last visit to Pakistan.
Siddiqui adds that this year's Ramadan has a new meaning for her.
"My biggest takeaway from this Ramadan is even when life gets hard, I still have my religion as a source of peace."