In Australia, this festival of beginnings is as much about feasting on mouth-watering delicacies as it is about celebrating new friends and cultures
“For me, religious festivals and celebrations have become an important way to teach my children about how we can transform living with diversity from the superficial… to something dignified, mutually respectful and worthwhile.” Randa Abdel-Fattah
It is so easy for one to come under the spell of festivals—they symbolise everything colourful, beautiful and cheerful. There is so much joy, camaraderie and celebration. Australians are both muti-lingual and multicultural, and though a number of festivals have religious connotations, people come together to celebrate irrespective of these differences. Food is invariably the underlying connection—the Diwali sweets, Christmas pudding and Eid biryani… it’s all irresistible, something that can get both grown-ups and kids equally excited! The new dresses and exchange of gifts add to the excitement in the air. But more than anything it is the sense of belonging and the connect that we all feel with each other during these festivals. The points of view may be different, but the fact is festivals bring people together. Families come together, and new friendships are forged; it is the creation of a bond between human beings, it is the celebration of the spirit of mankind!
June saw the culmination of the 40 days fast with the celebration of Eid. Growing up in India a number of my friends celebrated Eid and so it holds many fond memories. It was the time to go visiting for the mouth-watering nawabi biryani, the kebabs, the sheer korma, the seviyan and the malpua. It was a ritual for us to move from one friend’s house to another’s—we all had king-sized appetites in those days! And this is something I miss in Australia!
Heba Cadiri lives in Sydney and I spoke to her about Eid and what it means to her young family so many miles away from their family in India. “No matter wherever I am, Eid to me is a new beginning, rightly so as it marks the New Year. Eid is like the day after the exam you’d spend a month preparing for!” says Heba.
For her, Eid is celebrating family and recreating and reliving the memories from days spent in India. Palms are adorned with the traditional mehendi and it is an occasion and a reason to wear ethnic clothes. “The time-honoured biryani is prepared with instructions from the boss lady aka mother through Facetime,” chuckles Heba. After the religious formalities, is party time with friends. “As much as we miss our family, visiting relatives, collecting ‘Eidi’ (money given to kids as gifts), shopping for the Eid dress (yes, it is a big deal) we make do with what we have and enjoy the most with who are here with us to celebrate a festival they probably have little idea about but just as happy too,” reminisces Heba. “One thing Eid has taught me here is that even if you are away from home, there are friends who are like family. They are my tribe. Thank God for them,” she continues.
Festivals mean celebrations. And celebrations are incomplete without family. “We miss that the most here. Especially if Eid falls on a weekday and everybody has to get to work,” says Heba. “But that’s life and we roll with it. Eid is always a happy time, a time spent reconnecting with the old and nurturing the new,” she smiles. For Razia Sultana, Eid means “happiness, sharing, caring and loving”. “Here in Australia, Eid means a lot to me. We celebrate Eid with our friends from different cultural backgrounds—there are no Christians, Hindus, Muslims—just friends getting together to celebrate,” she says.
Razia loves the fact that in this multicultural country, friends get the opportunity to get together and be a part a part of each other’s celebrations, be it religious or otherwise. These are friends who have become family. Razia acknowledges the facilities that have been provided by the Australian government. “We have many mosques for the Eid namaz (prayer), while sporting fields are also used for prayer, just like it is back home in our country of origin. People of different cultural backgrounds, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh and even Africa, come to pray in the same place together. We may not know each other and there is no difference, we are all equal. We hug each other and share sweets with each other,” says Razia.
As social beings we are dependent on our social heritage, which is a mixture of customs, traditions, moral values, festivals and folklores. These are things we take pride in passing down to our children and grandchildren. Festivals are times when ‘you throw your worries to the winds’ and this is quite essential in today’s stressful atmosphere.
According to Heba, “One of the main practices for Eid is visiting relatives. Everybody is in and out of each other’s houses. Grudges are hard to hold onto then and makeups are aplenty!” Interacting with people from different cultures and learning about their festivals and celebrations helps us evolve and widen our horizons. “All religions preach togetherness, peace and harmony! A lot of importance is given to maintaining relationships and what better way to strengthen them than during festivities,” Heba concludes beautifully.