Eid al-Fitr is one of the most significant religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Eid holds immense cultural and religious importance, serving as a time of joy, unity, and spiritual rejuvenation. Each community has its own unique way of celebrating Eid al-Fitr, and each generation adds its own touch. I came from Syria to the UK in 2014 and my own small family blends many of our traditional Syrian customs with the multicultural ambience of our life here in the UK.

The traditional aspects of Eid in Syria that often come to mind include the new clothes bought in advance for Eid, the carnivals in the city’s parks, and the Eidiah, which is an amount of money given on Eid to kids. Kids receive Eidiah from their parents, relatives, friends and guests who pay visits during the three days of Eid al-Fitr. Giving Eidiah is a demonstration of love and generosity.

I remember all of these experiences and cherish many of the details from my childhood. However, since I got married and had my own family, I tend to reflect more on my memories of my mother and how she prepared our home in Syria for Eid. In Syria, the matriarch of the family has a central role in planning the Eid celebration. My mother spends the week preceding Eid meticulously gathering ingredients for the Eid grand feast which is attended by the families of my uncles and aunts; in some years, before the war in Syria, thirty to forty people would gather at the same time at our home.

My mother’s Eid feast is a labour of love; she takes pride in orchestrating a culinary symphony that tantalizes the senses and ignites the taste buds. My mother only cooks dishes from our traditional cuisine of Eastern Syria, employing her culinary expertise passed down through generations. As kids, we would wake up early to the aromas of traditional Syrian spices and delicacies wafting from the kitchen. My father and brothers would go to the Eid special prayer early in the morning and my sisters and I go to help my mother with the final preparations for the feast. It was often a very busy, loud, and sometimes mischievous experience for us.

My mother’s feast would include many appetisers, like fattoush, muhammara, baba ganoush, various kinds of fatteh (fried squares of pita bread, tahini, pine nuts, with either shredded chicken breast, chickpeas, or fried aubergine), and yalanji (grape leaves stuffed with a savoury mixture of rice, vegetables, and spices, then cooked in a tangy tomato-based sauce). The main dishes include maqluba, kabsa, various kinds of kibbeh, and many more. The traditional Eid sweet treats are baklava and ma'amoul. Both are stuffed with Syrian pistachios and cooked using rich milk ghee.

The way we celebrate Eid in the UK blends what my husband and I experienced in Syria, with many details we have picked up, year after year while living here in the UK. My mother spends the days preceding Eid thoroughly cleaning and tidying our home in anticipation of the many guests, while we, in the UK, spend the days before Eid selecting vibrant decorations to adorn the walls, often in the form of intricate lanterns. On the first day of Eid, homes in Syria are often filled with the aroma of traditional Syrian spices which are the natural result of the feast preparations. Our Eid feast in the UK is much simpler, with a smaller attendance; it mixes traditional Syrian dishes, Western, and Asian ones. This reflects the preferences of my kids who decide many of the details of our Eid celebrations.

As kids, we would be over the moon with the wads of small banknotes, the Eidiah, which stay only for a few hours in our pockets; my own kids prefer their Eidiah to be gifts in the form of toys or electronics. Their first day of Eid resembles more the Christmas boxing day than it resembles my first day of Eid as a kid. Eid in Syria is a kaleidoscope of visits and gatherings as the family embarks on a tour of friendship and goodwill. Our Eid in the UK is much simpler and often a private affair and my kids prefer us to travel to another town, often to London.

Regardless of these differences, we find solace in the memories created during Eid, and the bonds strengthened. It is a testament to the resilience of their cultural heritage and the enduring bonds of family and faith that transcend borders.