Lahore is transformed into a kaleidoscope of light and colour as shoppers fill the city markets, with places like Liberty Market, Fortress Stadium, Pace Shopping Centre, Panorama, Model Town Bazaar, Moon Market, Ichara and Anarkali being the hotspots. It is Chaand Raat, or the night before Eid day, a celebration at the end of the holy month and part of the run up to the festival. Chaand Raat is meant for last-minute Eid shopping.
Eid Al-Fitr, ‘the festival of breaking fast,’ is also called “The Little ‘Eid,’ or choti Eid in Pakistan. Rising early, Lahoris, decked up in new traditional clothes, start the day with a quick bath and a light breakfast of sweet vermicelli called seviyah. While men and children make their way towards the stately Badshahi Mosque (built mainly in red sandstone and white marble) or other mosques and eidgahs near their residences. Women are busy preparing elaborate Eid meals. Young girls adorn their hands and feet with intricate henna designs.
Meanwhile, at the mosque or eidgah, men and children exchange hearty greetings with acquaintances and friends uttering’ Eid Mubarak’. A spirit of friendliness and festive cheer pervades the air.
The children also ignite firecrackers and glittering the sparklers to mark the occasion. It is time for visiting friends and relatives, and delectable feast await visitors at every home.
After the men and children return home from Eid prayers, it is time for sheer khurma, the delightful dessert. It is prepared with vermicelli (a very fine kind of spaghetti) boiled in milk, with a variety of dry fruits and ghee added to make it a rich and aromatic dessert.
On this festive occasion, the poor and the needy are also remembered. Before the prayers, Zakat Al-Fitr (in the form of rice, barley, dates, etc), which is obligatory on Muslims, is given to the less fortunate because it enables them to enjoy Eid.
The Eid fiesta brings with it sublime food flavours. The celebratory festival foods are heavier on meat and richly spiced. Much of the food of Lahore is influenced by the local Punjabi and Mughlai cuisine, and is embodied by the diversity of its flavours. There is always a smorgasbord of eats on the table, be it karahi, Bihari kebabs, biryani, pilau, khorma, chargha, paya (goat’s trotter curry), kheema, rotis, Lahori fish, nihari, etc. And then there are those who prefer to enjoy Eid by feasting on Lahore’s celebrated Food Street in the Walled City.
Words: Aftab H. Kola