Eid festival was formally celebrated in Christchurch for the first time in an open-air environment on May 7 at The Commons on Kilmore Street, Christchurch City, with around 3,500 people enjoying the food and festivities.
Asturlab Cultural Centre organised the event in association with Christchurch City Council, Muslim Association of Canterbury, ChristchurchNZ, Gap Filler, Simurgh Music School and the Christchurch Iranian Society.
Earlier on May 3, the Christchurch Muslim community gathered in various places to offer Eid prayers. The celebration on May 7 saw all the communities, including the broader non-Muslim communities, come together in what was the first public, open-air, Muslim festival ever to be held in Christchurch.
Many dignitaries were present at the festival this year, including MP for Wigram and Minister for Housing Hon Dr Megan Woods, MP for Christchurch Central, Duncan Webb, Community Board Member Dr Sunita Gautam and Imam Gamal Fauda of Al Noor mosque, Christchurch.
Muslim communities from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria and more, were joined by Maori and non-Muslim New Zealanders and tourists to celebrate this important global festival.
The Commons was decorated with festive lights strung overhead between grand archways. People turned out in their best traditional dresses. The aroma of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine emanating from food stalls added to the festivities. There was plenty of free entertainment for children, including goodie bags, face painting, henna stalls, giant games, a bouncy castle, popcorn, and cotton floss. A table was set up to welcome guests with free cups of traditional hot tea along with little doughnuts and a selection of dates.
A band from Simurgh Music School, a Persian music school based in Christchurch, played on traditional drum and string instruments along with vocals sung in Arabic. Later in the evening, there was some lively spontaneous dancing among some groups around the stage.
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, addressed the crowd via a recorded video message. In the four-minute message, Ardern greeted everyone with traditional "As-Salaam-Alaikum," and "Eid Mubarak."
She acknowledged the significance of "this first open-air gathering and celebration of our Muslim community in Christchurch." She also encouraged everyone present to, "...please enjoy one another's company - know I will be thinking of you and Eid Mubarak."
Asurlab Cultural Centre is a Christchurch-based charitable trust established in July 2021 to provide a safe space to showcase and celebrate the cultural heritage of ethnic Muslim people who have immigrated to New Zealand from predominantly Islamic countries.
Dr. Mohammad Abu Dalu, the founder of Asturlab, told Indian Weekender, "We felt a need to raise awareness about various cultural aspects of Islam, including the customs, traditions, values, languages, art and history. There has been fantastic feedback with broader communities appreciating the cultural elements that are not widely understood. Efforts are now on for securing a public space for the Centre in Christchurch which will be announced soon."
Dr Abu Dalu, who wants the Eid Festival to be an annual fixture, added, "I am happy that the event achieved its purpose of bringing together many of the different ethnicities that make up the Muslim community here in Christchurch to share one of the most cherished festivals during the Muslim Calendar year with the wider communities of Christchurch."
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