Celebrating the holidays our way

Celebrating the holidays our way

By Sairah Zubair Khan

Celebrating the Holidays in a Muslim household in the UK, our way… How did we do it?!
Quite easily actually! For a start, we as a family of doctors could not always achieve holidays on the same day, to celebrate Eid as a family. However, the December Holiday festival was a non-negotiable, ‘get your selves’ round to Mum’s affair! My Mum or Ami as we called her, loved this season!
She would make sure that the house was clean and tidy, up to three days before. Ready for those visitors ‘who turned up’ at a moment’s notice. We would always have fresh flowers on the table, sometimes a big display. Other times in small mason jars. Ami would make a special breakfast of omelette with tomato and coriander. We would also have a traditional bread called ‘paratha’. She would ask, ‘who is hungry?!’ The paratha is rising and becoming all puffy in my pan! After breakfast and clearing up the plates, we would start the cooking for lunch.

Usually the night before the festival… my Ami would marinade a turkey, if it was the whole family. Otherwise, it would just be a chicken. Aromatics would be infused into the bird, she would use her Mother’s recipe from Lahore. As we became bigger in numbers, different family members were in charge of the vegetables and gravy. The table was laid by the younger members, under my Mum’s watchful eye! We would take a break for prayer and then have a tea break. That was the best time as Ami would serve rose Turkish delight. This was my favourite. She would finally allow us to open the chocolates, we received from neighbours! At Eid, we gave presents and food, sometimes homemade gifts to our community. In return, they would have a present ready for us, under their tree at home.

By the afternoon, the food would be permeating a delicious aroma around the house. The Grandkids would be playing and the adults chuckling, at yet another family anecdote. My Mum loved this aspect, the family all around her. She would be in her favourite chair, with a comfy shawl wrapped around her.

As it became closer to 3pm, we would settle down at the family table and wait for The Queen. As we had lunch, we would listen to her broadcast. My Mum would remark, how nice she looked and how her Grandchildren had grown up! As we finished the delicious meal, we would offer the afternoon prayer. The family would be together in unison.

Then it would be time, to find a comfortable seat on the sofa for an afternoon siesta. We usually had visitors early evening. Our neighbours would bake a mince pie for Mum. She in return would give some food she had prepared the day before, some rice or kebab. Tea would be served and there would be constant chatter, how are things…

At night time, after the visitors had gone home. We would watch a family movie or play a board game called ‘carrom board’. This is a game found in South Asia, competitive, fast and very fun! If we were still hungry, Ami would make us some wraps with the left-over turkey. A spicy mayonnaise, turkey and lettuce wrap, delicious!

Then it was time for the ‘finale’. My Ami made a delicious dessert called ‘ras malai’. Little rounds of cottage cheese, in a perfumed cardamom and rose syrup. She would adorn the dish with pistachios and sliced almonds. Only the ‘most favourite’ family member, would be given the honour to slice the nuts and decorate the dish!

Now the chair sits empty at my Parent’s home. My Ami sadly passed two years ago. The memories and love for each other, she installed in us will live on.

The festive season is about family, spending time with a loved one. Regardless of the faith and creed that you belong to. We honour our Mum’s memory by continuing her traditions and love for this special day.

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