How Christmas Eve reminds me of Chaand Raat.

While writing this I had many pauses. Pauses where I thought about colorful bangles around mine and my sisters’ wrists. Pauses where I remembered my mom’s urgency in getting the house ready for Eid the next day. Pauses where I missed my dad. Pauses at how different my childhood Eids were. And finally, pauses where I thanked Allah for giving me a chance to make a life in the USA but I also grieved my physical disconnection with Pakistan.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very blessed. When I moved to Canada I didn’t have my immediate family but I did have many of my husband’s siblings. And I had a great time with them. We used to have great Eids. Amazing, amazing Eids. But Chaand Raat (Laila-tul-Eid) was never the same.

The same thing stood out when I moved to USA. Huge family and now I had many of my own family members close to me. I have fortunately spent a good number of Ramadans and Eids with my mom also. But Chaand Raat is not the same. I try to satisfy my craving for this most auspicious and fun night by going to the mosque but………… it’s not the same. It doesn’t compare to Karachi ever.

I was never a girly girl. I didn’t have an ounce of eastern and Pakistani style in me. I wore drab clothes during most of the year. But my cousins had (and still have) a contagious sense of contemporary fashion and style. And Eid was our biggest occasion to show-off personal style and flare. My cousins looked like fashion models in their designer outfits and heavily accessorized ensembles.

So, even a plain girl like me, caught some of the Eid dressing-up fever. And soon I’d be enjoying it. We would go shopping together sometimes and some of my most memorable trips are with my cousins on Chaand Raat.

We would rush into shop after shop, trying on jewelry, rejecting more stuff than buying, shelling out saved money to buy uniquely expensive items that our parents considered a waste, ran each choice by each other, immediately disliked whatever didn’t pass the general consensus , impulsively bought hideous pieces just because we believed they worked with our outfit and then came home laden with our merchandise, only to exchange our shopping with each other as we all liked the other’s taste better.

Hena or Mehndi is a huge industry and obsession of Pakistani girls. Girls from other countries please chime in. I’m not a huge hena fan but was always forced into getting it because we all had to look similar, right? We couldn’t break that code. It was the sisterhood of sisterhood. The truest form of it. 💕

And the shoes! The interest that girls have in each other’s shoes is of course known to everyone here. And shoes fortunately haven’t been touched by the stupid thinking of age-appropriateness. So we shared that show-off with our aunts and mothers also. It was so amazing to see how we all had similar feet and how we could so easily slip into each other’s shoes.

So you can imagine how nostalgic I get when Christmas Eve is here. How it reminds me of what a regular shopping center looks like in Karachi on the eve of Eid. I go from store to store, look at the excited faces, watch people at Target and Walmart completing last minute shopping, my Christian friends excitedly telling me of the presents they’re wrapping, my hospital lobby adorned with some of the most beautiful and festive decorations, some of my friends complaining about how they are still not done with their present shopping but that tiny twinkle in their eyes tells me that they don’t mind going to the mall after finishing their workday and picking out presents from their kids’ Christmas list.

I love this spirit of festivity. And I try to create a similarity of it at our mosque on Chaand Raat and I believe I have successfully created it on one or two occasions. Just by setting up something as simple as a hena stand, a Pakistani jewelry stand and a chaat stand. Chaat is a favorite cultural dish of mine and I make sure everyone gives it the respect that it so deserves. 😂.

So to me, the spirit of festivity is hard to replicate but so enthralling when you see how you created a semblance of a Pakistani Chaand Raat.

Just because some occasions are marked in our hearts due to their spirit and not necessarily due to any concrete significance attributed to them (in children’s minds. Laila-tul-Eid is a highly favored night religiously otherwise ) I love my kids joining their Christian friends when they’re invited on Christmas Eve. . Because this inclusion provides my kids with the opportunity to enjoy a spirit that is a part of their mother’s fondest memories. When I see my kids returning home from their Christian friends’ places on Christmas Eve, after being there sometime for something as simple as cookies and milk and playing tag and winning a puzzle, with their faces lit up with the type of innocent happiness that is so hard to come by when you’re not a child anymore, that familiar feeling of Chaand Raat flutters in my chest for a long time after.

Manhattan on Christmas Eve

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