Eid-ul-Fitr (“Eid”) is one of the most important holidays to the 1.8 billion Muslims found worldwide, from Algeria to Kazakhstan to Malaysia.
Perhaps due to its lack of a public holiday status, Eid is not a commonly-known holiday in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, up to 300,000 local Muslims celebrate this day along with their counterparts around the world.
We thought that it could be nice to give our non-Muslim readers some basic general information on why and how this important festival is celebrated by some of us Muslims, in Hong Kong.
Pic 1: Muslims observing Eid prayer in congregation.
Eid marks the first day after the holy month of Ramadan according to the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, observing Muslims fast during the day, abstaining from all food and drink until sunset.
While the denial of food forms an integral part of the religious activity, the spiritual aspects are far more important. Ramadan is a month of regeneration and self-control. Muslims are encouraged to rectify bad habits and achieve greater spiritual growth. Many Muslims attempt to read the entire Quran during this period and offer more and longer prayers at night.
Observing the month of Ramadan is undeniably challenging. Therefore, when Eid comes around, celebrations tend to be splendid, lasting for a week or more in many parts of the world. While Eid celebrations are more subdued in Hong Kong, that does not mean celebrations are nonexistent and Eid celebrations take place all over different areas of Hong Kong, like in the Central District.
Pic 2 & 3: Jamia Mosque exterior.
Jamia Mosque, built in 1890, is nestled next to the Mid-Levels escalator on Shelley Street. It is one of the four mosques found in Hong Kong Island. On the morning of Eid, Muslims arrive at the mosque early and exchange hearty greetings of “Peace be upon you!” to each other. They then pay Zakat ul-Fitr (charity for the poor), before offering special Eid prayers in congregation.
Pic 4: Attiya photographed in HKU, where she pursuing undergraduate degree in Psychology.
After prayer, socialising between members of the community and families begins. Attiya is a local-born Pakistani Muslim living in the Mid-Levels with her family. For Attiya, Eid is a special family occasion. Much like how the Chinese celebrate their new year, Eid is a time for the extended family to get together. Attiya’s mother would prepare new clothes for herself and her children. Elders in the family would give out pocket money to the younger generation.
Pic 5: Attiya with her siblings in their new Eid clothes.
Special Eid food is prepared in Attiya’s family. Pakistani delicacies include Sawaiyan, a dish of sweet vermicelli mixed with almonds, condensed milk and raisins. Samosa and Pakora are also among her festive favourites.
Attiya also celebrates Eid in the University of Hong Kong, with other Muslim classmates. As an executive committee member of the Muslim Students’ Association, she is involved in preparations for Eid celebrations within the university.
Pic 6: Latifah (right) on Eid
Latifah is a local Chinese Muslim living in the Central Western district of Hong Kong. On Eid morning, she wakes up before 6 in the morning to make it in time for the first Eid prayer in the Mosque. While there are later sessions, she has to go to the earlier session to make it in time for work, since Eid is not a public holiday in Hong Kong.
While she goes about her day as usual, at night she has a nice dinner with her family. Her go-to restaurant is Ba Yi, which offers authentic halal Xinjiang cuisine and is located close to where they live.
Pic 7: Da Pan Ji, a Xinjiang dish offered in Ba Yi Restaurant
Like most other religious and cultural celebrations, Eid is a time for gatherings of friends, family and community members. To take part, feel free to contact local Muslim organisations and mosques!
Jamia Mosque: 30 Shelley Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
Ba Yi Restaurant: G/F, 43 Water Street, Western District