Today Muslims across the world will celebrate Eid-al-adha, a holiday that marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage Muslims are required to make at least once in their lifetimes.
It’s a quiet, solitary Eid for those of us not making the trip. Especially when compared with the celebrations of Eid-al-fitr, the other Eid on the Islamic calendar, the one that that comes at the end of Ramadan.
Many people know the hajj as a commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, whose name is Ismael in the Islamic tradition. But it’s worth noting that Muslims on hajj in Saudi Arabia also trace the footsteps of Ismael’s mother, Hagar, as she sought water for her child.
Growing up in Minnesota, in the late '90s and early 2000s, Eid-al-adha was known to me as the “Bari Eid” (in Urdu, translated as big Eid). This made no sense to me as a child.
With Eid-al-adha, there was no fasting, like there is for Ramadan — the drama of going a whole day without food, building up to the evening meal, while enjoying time with friends during the countless gatherings held throughout the month.
There were no samosas to look forward to in the evenings, which is how we often broke our daily fasts during Ramadan.
There certainly were no larger gifts of Eidi (or cash) from family and friends, when compared to the other Ramadan Eid. The truth is, I grossed about the same amount for both holidays.
What’s more, I usually took the full day off school and work for Eid-al-fitr. But for Eid-al-adha I usually took only part of the day, attending the morning-prayer service before heading back to class or work, especially when exams or meetings were involved.
What was similar about the holidays was the care my family took in making the days special. We always wore our best, often newest clothes. The evening before my sister and I would split a tub of Haagen-Daz and draw simple mehndi designs on our hands.
And then there was the delicious food. After the morning-prayer service on both Eids came a helping of milky sheer-korma, a sweetened vermicelli noodle soup served alongside a variety of homemade Indian sweets.
For dinner we enjoyed lamb biryani, a spiced rice dish served alongside a crispy cabbage salad called kachumbar.
These dishes are very special to me — they’re only served on holidays, and they’re rarely available in the handful of Indian restaurants in town.
Plus, my mother has worked to perfect the recipes over the years. She made a habit of discussing her methods and ingredients with my aunts and grandmother. She always was testing new techniques, experimenting with proportions and generally trying to improve her recipes.
To this day, my mother uses the week before Eid to prepare a selection of Indian sweets. After arriving home from work, she spends her evenings conjuring up all kinds of treats including nan khatai (a type of buttery semolina cookie made with ghee) and various burfis (made of sweetened condensed milk).
She turns her attention to the sheer-korma the evening before the big day, marinating the lamb in homemade whole-milk yogurt.
As I reflect upon this upcoming Eid, I think of the dedication of my mother (and aunts and grandmother) to preparing my family’s most beloved treats. And that seems apt, since this is the Eid where we remember a mother’s commitment to feeding her child.
In recent years, my family has augmented its traditions by including trips to local restaurants like Cafe Latte and French Meadow Bakery for brunch or afternoon tea. This year I’m thinking of adding an apple pie to our rotation, since Eid coincides with the apple harvest. But it’s still my mother’s homemade Indian treats I most look forward to.
Oh, and the Eidi.
Azra is a writer from Minnesota who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. She’s looking forward to learning how to make nan khatai with her mother this year. She’s on Instagram at @azramakes.