Muslims in Orange County Adjust Eid Traditions to Adapt to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo courtesy of the Islamic Society of Orange County

Decorations and balloons at the Islamic Society of Orange County's Eid Al Fitr drive-through celebration in May.

The coronavirus will not stop Eid al-Adha celebrations in Orange County but it will change how those celebrations take place. 

What Does Eid al-Adha Commemorate?

Eid al-Adha is one of the most holy times in the Islamic calendar, commemorating the Muslim Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to God.

Muslims believe God tested Ibrahim’s devotion by commanding Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael. As Ibrahim was about to do so, God provided a lamb for him to sacrifice instead.

During this time, many Muslims will have an animal, usually a lamb, slaughtered by a butcher, and will distribute meat to those in need.

It is celebrated on on the third day of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca known as Hajj. This year it begins on the evening of July 30.

In Orange County, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up and going to the mosque in the morning to pray in community. When the prayer is over, members of the community hang out at the mosque. Kids receive gifts and get money.

But the coronavirus has put a thorn in these types of celebrations that have people congregate. Even Hajj was cancelled for millions of Muslims and the pilgrimage to Mecca is restricted to people already in Saudi Arabia to limit the spread of the virus, according to Al Jazeera.

One of the biggest celebrations that takes place in Orange County is Uplift Charity’s annual Eid carnival, offering free food and toys, games, henna tattoos and a petting zoo as well as free health screenings and dental hygiene classes.

This year the carnival hosted by the Muslim-based nonprofit will be completely drive-through and will take place at the Islamic Society of Orange County mosque in Garden Grove on August 15 from 4 to 7 p.m.

“Unfortunately we will not do the same as we usually do. We will have meat distributions, backpacks, some hygienic items that include hand sanitizers and face masks and some sweets,” said Ahmed Almukhtar, Uplift Charity’s director of operations.

“They will be served while they are in their cars.”

Photo courtesy of the Islamic Society of Orange County

Members of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove help to distribute food during their drive-through celebration in May for Eid Al Fitr.

The carnival started 15 years ago for Muslim immigrants to celebrate the festivities. Muslims born here have also shown interest in the carnival, and in the last few years more than 1,000 people showed up annually to celebrate.

During Eid al-Adha, the charity donates thousands of pounds of meat to people in need in the community. The meat is packaged, sealed and frozen. This year they will donate 4,500 pounds in 5- to 10-pound packages, depending on the size of the family.

Religious institutions are only allowed to have outdoor or drive-through services if they’re capable of it because of a state mandate from Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Mosques in Orange County will be holding virtual services on Eid, according to Owaiz Dadabhoy, the president of Uplift Charity and chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization for mosques and Muslim organizations in the region.

“The Shura Council is also doing a virtual program. Some of them might do something outside and you know, they’ll have prayer, spacing, masks, and all that good stuff,” Dadabhoy said.

Terms You May Not Recognize

Takbeerat: is one of the biggest traditional practices of Eid and is a declaration that God is great recited out loud numerous times as a group before the Eid prayer.

Wudu: the Islamic procedure of cleansing parts of the body, a type of ritual purification, or ablution, typically performed in preparation for formal prayers and before handling and reading the Quran.

Masjid: the Arabic word for a mosque.

Al-Ansar mosque in Anaheim will be hosting an Eid prayer on July 1 in their parking lot. The first round of Takbeerat will be at 6:30 a.m. followed by prayer at 7 a.m. The second round of Takbeerat will be at 7:45 a.m. followed by prayer at 8:15 a.m.

Attendees must bring their own prayer rugs, wear face masks and perform wudu from home. They will also hold a drive through celebration on August 1 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove has been offering Friday prayer services outside with social distancing measures in place as well as mandatory mask wearing. In prayer, Muslims usually stand shoulder to shoulder; that is not possible because of the virus.

The Garden Grove masjid will be celebrating Eid al-Adha on July 31. The Eid prayer will be done at home, however a drive through celebration will be held that day at the mosque from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Their food pantry is accepting donations of meat which they will distribute to those in need.

Rashad Al-Dabbagh, executive director of the Arab American Civic Council, said because of the pandemic that he and his family will not be going to Eid prayer in person and will stay home and Facetime with family.

Al-Dabbagh said typically some businesses in Anaheim’s Little Arabia will have a buffet because they expect a lot of people. 

“This is a time where restaurants in Little Arabia expect a lot of business. Obviously this time it’s going to be different,” he said. “They usually are busy from morning to night, everyone is celebrating, especially if Eid comes on a weekend,” he said.

Restaurants in the area have been struggling since the pandemic started. Olive Tree, a restaurant that has been a staple there for 15 years, had to close its doors.

“They’re still hurting, but they’re trying to adapt. They’re trying to figure out ways to deliver and trying to figure out ways to attract folks to still come in and pick up their food,” Al-Dabbagh said.

Al-Dabbagh said when he was a kid that receiving eidiyah—the tradition of giving money to younger family members—was his favorite part of Eid, but now that he is older he has new favorite part.

“To me, the favorite part about Eid al-Adha is that the family gathers. These are times where we’re not always together, so this is an opportunity to be together and to celebrate together even if it’s through FaceTime or virtually,” Al-Dabbagh said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.