By AMAL SHAKEB

When you live in Pakistan you have the privilege of celebrating Eid by law. It is a national holiday, and the country celebrates the festivity in the best way it can. New clothes, dinners, sweetmeats, bangles, henna, and of course Eidi – the most special part; Eid is the time when everyone wants to be together and joyous.

However, outside Pakistan things are really different. Eid celebrated on the same day by Muslims all over the world, but in very different ways. In the west, Eid is not a national event; it is just a communal event, in the Muslim community. There is no holiday, so people have to individually apply in their organisations for a day or two off, which some even do not bother to do. It is a sad truth that for some people living in the West Eid has lost its charm and value. But not for everyone, those who truly care have kept the ignition alive by the warmth of their love.

The Asian communities living in West have their own Eid celebrations. In London, the infamous Green Street lights up to give the Asians in London a glance of the Eid in their own countries. Girls are again given a chance to enjoy their chaand raat shopping. Eid gatherings and shows are organised in almost all Asian communities, one of the major and most regular ones being in the heart of London – at the Trafalgar Square.

In Canada, the local Asian bazaar in Toronto called Gerrard Street offers the same Eidi mood, with decorations and Eidi items on sale. People who have settled with all of their families in the West have somehow managed to make these countries their own, and sometimes it is really hard to believe that it is actually not Pakistan.

Almost every city in Britain has a mosque for its Muslim community, where even women can gather on Eid, where children go to study the Quran, mosques in the West are more like a community centre, where all Muslims can gather to do their activities. They can distribute food there, talk to eat other about religion, and ofcourse say their prayers. For some people, the mosque is the only place where they actually get to wish Eid Mubarak to someone.

The best thing about celebrating Eid in a city like London, Toronto, New York is that people from all countries are together there as Muslims. Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Arabs, all these people might be separated in the world geographically, but here they gather together to celebrate Eid, a festival that means the same to everyone, because they share the same religion.

These Western countries start preparing for Christmas two months ahead. Everything is Christmasy. Christmas shopping is essential, so prices go down, offers go up, people save all year for Christmas gifts, dinners and parties are planned, Christmas trees are decorated. They really treat Christmas as the biggest event of the year. And maybe that’s why, some Muslims living in these countries have started treating Eid with the same respect and importance.

Ayesha lives with her husband and two children in England, and makes it a point to celebrate Eid so that her British born children do not lose the excitement and importance related to this holy festival. They go to say their Eid prayers in the morning, and then set off to an Asian place to have some food. They wear Eid clothes, and have a nice and simple family Eid.Kiran, living with her family in Canada, shares a similar story about celebrating Eid,

“Basically we get up in the morning, and everyone including all the women and children go to the mosque for Eid prayers. Then people come back home and get dressed in their Eid wear and go to other people's houses for lunch, where no one really gives anyone eidhi, people just mingle and eat...there is always lots of desserts and then they go home”.

The main ritual of Eid ul Adha is sacrifice. Whereas in Pakistan weeks prior to Barka Eid as popularly known there, the streets are stormed with goats and cows, while everyone is busy in looking for their best sell, things are quite different in other countries. Many of the Western countries still have strict laws and regulations that make sacrificing very difficult. In these countries, people keep pets, they do not kill animals publicly. Hence, people living abroad had no option but to send money to Pakistan to get their sacrifices done.

Some just go to the local butcher and give him the money for a goat, pick the meat from him, and distribute and cook it on the Eid dinners. However, now due to the large number of Muslim community residing in the West, things are changing. Now, there are special Muslim farms, which take orders for sacrifices and then deliver meat to your houses. People still do not get the joy of feeding goats and listening to their moaning late night from their backyard, and then cry on seeing them being slaughtered, only to enjoy their meat later that day. However, they still get the satisfaction of performing their religious duty.

While there is a stark difference between Eid in Pakistan and the Western part of the world, there is a totally different aura of Eid in Saudi Arabia. They are the ones who get the most generous Eid holidays, but their way of celebrating it is again totally different from Pakistanis. How the Saudi locals celebrate Eid is a mystery to most Pakistanis, but the large Pakistani community residing in Saudia complains of Eid being dull and boring there.

The life and happening of Eid celebrations like in Pakistan is a unique feature, not seen in any other part of the world. The lights, stalls, bangles, henna, crisp eidi notes, sweet meats might seem regular stuff to local Pakistanis, but Pakistanis abroad miss these small things dearly, and realise their importance once they cannot enjoy them anymore.

Hence, Eid is a speciality of Pakistani, which it must retain, even in these troubling times, let us hope that the joy of Eid lights up the gloominess of our dear country.

And for those spending their Eids out of Pakistan, the most important thing to remember is that on Eid you do not need a big gathering of people or fancy new clothes and accessories to be happy. Even if it is a small celebration with you immediate family, that should be satisfying and cherished, because at the end of the day, Eid means happiness, and happiness is where love is. Have a happy Eid.