Coronavirus pandemic changes way people observe holidays

Samrah Abbasi, Editor-at-Large

FaceTiming her grandmother in Turkey, hosting Ramdan dinners with her family and attending a luncheon at the mosque on Eid encompassed what senior Zeynep Erel did to observe Ramadan and Eid in past years. This year, the way she observes the holidays has and will change in some ways.

“The first night of Ramadan we typically have a massive dinner that my dad cooks for my whole [extended] family,” said Erel in a phone interview. “Because of quarantine, it has been just the four of us.”

In a phone interview, Basmah Salam, assistant director of development at Bayan Islamic Graduate School, said Ramadan is a holiday where Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset for 29 to 30 days. Following the last day of Ramadan is a celebration called Eid.

Fasting from sunrise to sunset has been more difficult during quarantine because she is not as busy as she was before, Erel said.

“Normally for Eid, we would attend a luncheon at the mosque after prayer and then we would go home and get ready for a fancy dinner,” said Erel. “But because of [quarantine], we will probably just do the prayers ourselves and celebrate at home with my [immediate] family.”

She is not terribly sad that she will not have a large celebration on Eid this year because she will be with her immediate family, Erel said.

Salam said the way people are spiritually observing Ramdan has been different this year.

“Usually Muslims go to the [mosque] every night of Ramadan to perform ritual prayers called Taraweeh,” Salam said.

“We are not even going to the [mosque] right now for Friday prayers or Taraweeh prayers,said Salam. “Not having Eid prayer together is going to be very odd.”

Social distancing guidelines have also changed the way passover is observed.

Mandy Herlich, director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth-El, said in a phone interview that it was hard not being physically together with her friends and family for Passover, but she found some positives to this change.

“My best friend lives a mile from me and every year she has invited me for Passover, and every year for five years [I’ve] said, ‘I love you but I’m going to be with my family,’” said Herlich. “So this year it was very nice because I was able to hop on her Zoom for a while and be at her Seder then hop on my family’s Zoom right after.”

According to Herlich, Passover is celebrated by having Seders, which are special ceremonies at which people read, sing, do various activities and eat foods specific to the holiday. 

Senior Sydney Klapman said in a phone interview that Seder lasts about an hour for her family but this year it was short due to technical difficulties.

“It was hard to have everyone connect, especially because my grandparents couldn’t figure out how to use Zoom.

“There wasn’t that sense of family and it didn’t feel right,” Klapman said.