Eid: How South African Muslims Celebrate

Eid Salaah in 2018 at the Johannesburg Stadium

After 30 days of fasting from dusk till dawn in Ramadan, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Muslims celebrate in various ways including dressing their best, feasting on delicious food, doing special prayers, and sending greetings to friends and family. For Eid 2019, SHAAZIA EBRAHIM and FATIMA MOOSA spoke to Muslims in South Africa about their unique Eid traditions.

Shakirah Dramat (27), entrepreneur, Bo-Kaap
Shakirah Dramat
(Picture by Ashiq Johnson Photography)

It’s tradition to dress your best on Eid. Either we’ll buy something to wear or we’ll wear the best of what we have in our cupboard. We hate shopping just before Eid so we try to get our shopping done early. We shop at Gatesville: everything a coloured Muslim person could need is in Gatesville from incense sticks to spices, salah (prayer) mats, traditional clothing, Islamic books and food. On Eid, we wake up early. The men will go to mosque, we’ll go shopping for food.  We’ll prepare a light breakfast and snacks for people who come say salamat (greetings) to us on Eid. We do each other’s hair and make-up in the morning, with islamic radio channels on in the background.

On Eid we eat food that is more expensive than we would traditionally eat, it’s a treat. Sometimes it’s a case of putting a little bit of money away to make sure we can eat well. We have a leg of lamb, prawns, crayfish curry, chicken roast, roast vegetables, tomato trotters, and akni (rice dish). We visit neighbours and drive from suburb to suburb visiting family and friends saying salamat. There’s a tradition of Muslim people coming from the townships to Bo-Kaap for Eid, we keep ready-packed things to give them. My granny also keeps small coins to children who collect money at all the houses they go to.

Sulaimaan Daya (20), student, Northcliff
Sulaimaan Daya

The night before Eid, we leave Johannesburg and go to our uncle’s farm near Groot-Marico, which is 240km from here. This is an Eid tradition, my family has been going to our uncle’s farm for over 100 years. All my family meet there, there’s maybe about 60 of us. We’ll stay the night and on Eid morning we’ll shower and drive to Groot-Marico to read Eid salah. Every Eid, I buy a new kurta (a long, loose collarless shirt) and a topi (hat or cap). After salaah we go back to our uncle’s farm and have masala chicken for breakfast. The whole locality would be invited to his house for breakfast. We’ll easily be about 90 people altogether, with about 40 guests being part of the locality.

Then we go visiting at everyone’s houses in the locality and eat whatever they offer us and talk a little bit. After that we’ll all just laze around, maybe fall asleep. Some will play soccer or Fifa, the aunties will be talking. Then everyone goes back to the masjid for Zuhr (midday prayer) and we eat lunch. For lunch we’ll maybe eat dhal or curry and rice. Then four o’ clock is teatime. The Daya family loves our cakes. Every aunty comes with one or two tupperwares of baking and we have that with tea. We’ll stay at my uncle’s farm till the weekend.  

Hawa Mayere, journalist, Wynberg
Hawa Mayere

Eid has always been a special time in our family. Every year one of my father’s brothers takes a turn in hosting the entire family. Therefore, Eid is especially special because it has become our annual family reunion. Basically every morning starts off by going to the Eid Salaah. Thereafter we all gather and make dua for all the family members that have passed away. After that we all dress up. This is almost every single person’s favorite part. We share food, sweets and exchange gifts.

Something special and unique that we do is that we have a special dish in the memory of our late grandmother. She always made it for Eid. The dish is called Pree. It’s basically a beef stew but in this one spinach, beef, chicken breasts and fresh fish are used in making it. The dish basically was made to cater for everyone, in terms of taste. It plays a significant part of our Eid as its something unique that we do.

Waheeda (26), counsellor, Northcliff
Applying mendhi (henna) on Eid

Eid for me is about family and food. The day is mostly eating and visiting the elderly family members and mayat (funeral) houses. Eid is mostly just the day we spend with family. We all go for the eidgah salaah as a family. Since my grandfather passed we have the eid meals at different houses. Before we would have it just at my grandparent’s house. When we spent Eid in Cape Town it’s very different. In Cape Town after the Eid Salah the ladies go home and prepare the breakfast which is mostly quick foods. The men use that time to visit all the houses for example their sisters, cousins, aunties or whoever they have on their list. This is very different from how we do it in Johannesburg.

In Cape Town my uncle says there is a tradition of children dressing up in the Eid clothes and making housecalls. The children knocking on doors to wish you Eid Mubarak expect some monetary reward in return. He said you get hundreds of non-Muslim kids dressed up and knocking on Muslims doors knowing that they will be rewarded in cash or kind. Everybody has their own traditions so as long as everybody enjoys it is a very joyous occasion.

Christy Cassey Khadijah Pinkerton (28), media planner and account manager, Johannesburg
Chrissy Khadija Pinkerton

Eid for me community, friendship, the best food ever, and memories for my kid. Being a revert, Eid for the first two year was weird. It wasn’t the celebration it is now for me because it was really just us few three to six Muslims in the family depending on who was available. For the past three years, I’ve been attending a community Eid with my family.

One of the local moulana (religious leader) and his wife hosts a community Eid at their house. They’ve been doing so for the past decade or more. For people to go out of their way to open up their home to the local Muslim community and not expect anything in return is truly amazing for me. That’s what I believe is the true spirit of Eid, especially for reverts who don’t have any family or friends in the Deen (Islamic religion). It gives me and my family an opportunity to make more friends in the community and gives my son a chance to build memories with other kids. I think more communities should endeavour to host mass Eid. It’s things like this that solidify and unify us as we should be.

These voxes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Featured image via Fatima Moosa