Passing through the alley next to my local mosque in West Lafayette, Indiana, families in their cars had a drive-thru event to celebrate a very different `Eid Al-Adha.
At the mosque on Friday, volunteers in facemasks gave out pre-made gift boxes to any families in the area who would participate in the drive-by portion of the celebration.
The white decorates boxes had ice cream and a variety of chocolates depending on the size of each family that came by. My box had two little chocolate ice creams – one for my spouse and one for myself.
Abiding by the local recommendations set out by the federal and state-level stands, the mosque did choose to have a congregational `Eid prayer after all. In a normal holiday time, the mosque would be teeming with excited families of all ages and nationalities.
This year, the singular `Eid prayer time was made into two smaller congregations. The normally massive rented hall for hundreds of people was traded out for the small mosque near Purdue University’s campus.
Each congregant had to pre-register and come with a mandatory facemask and personal prayer mats.
Layers of plastic covered the deep green carpeted floors as mosque added taped marks on the floor to guarantee social distancing.
I came with my prayer mat folded up in my purse, feeling slightly apprehensive of how to take up space indoors without hugging people I knew or talking at length.
While some men from the community had to stay home, for lack of places, many women chose to stay home.
When I attended the latter prayer time at eight in the morning, I was one of only six or seven women in total. A generally nervous silence replaced the excited chatter of the women’s side as everybody awaited the call to prayer.
All congregants kept their conversations as short and brief as possible to limit the potential spread. A friend asked if I would pose in her `Eid picture with her from six feet away to maintain some sense of normalcy during the holiday.
The elderly and immuno-compromised were discouraged from attending the service, which in turn left many community elders to stay home. Their presence was noticeably missing as well as the laughter of children.
The mosque, which normally has a large student population from being close to Purdue University, felt quite unusually empty and solemn, but it was nice to easily hear the khutbah from the khateeb for once. (Normally the chatter is so loud that it’s a bit loud to hear the message of the sermon from the back of the room.)
After a very quick `Eid prayer inside the mosque, people got into their cars and attend the drive-by portion of the `Eid celebration.
Not Much Difference
Many local members of the community later commented that this `Eid felt quite out of the ordinary since they often could not visit extended family or travel house to house to connect with community members.
As for myself, since I usually pray and go home to a day without any further invitations, there were little changes in my `Eid practices. If anything, it felt more comfortable since there was not a big crowd of people that only pops up once a year.
This year felt more emotionally comfortable with a few familiar faces, even if there was the stress of not being able to hug one another.
Lastly, I noticed that some people dressed up at home nonetheless, choosing to share a nice `Eid selfie online to feel connected to the greater community outside of their home, while others relished in the knowledge they could finally wear their favorite sweatpants all day during this holiday time.
For me, I asked my husband to take me to a local restaurant with a very socially-distant patio space, so I could eat one of my favorite foods (a vegetarian Eggs benedict) with a smooth, warm mint mocha latte.
I made sure to dress up for salah and to eat my dinner, but at home, I was happy to back to hanging out with the cats in a comfy hoodie – still, an `Eid well spent.