Within the Uyghur Autonomous Region, millions of Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr. In big cities like Urumqi, Kashgar and Hotan, many historic mosques become packed with tens of thousands of Uyghur men coming from every corner of the cities. It is a great honor for the young boys to participate in the Eid prayer. After the prayer, all of the men gather and perform “Sama Ussuli” which is a celebratory dance before going home.  

It is customary for children and young adults to dress in new clothes, either modern or traditional. Adult men dress up in “doppa” (a square or round traditional hat) and the ladies wear “etles” (atlas silk). Styles differ between the young, the middle age, and the older people. Aside from visiting parents, relatives, neighbors and friends, people also visit the sick and needy in their homes. Visiting the graveyards to pray for lost loved ones is another common custom of Eid. 

Uyghurs host festive traditional parties and gatherings with shows and live entertainment where old and young all come to celebrate the joy of Eid together. Neighbors get together to help prepare the food for these gatherings. Children stand at the door to greet the guests and they receive Eid money called “heytlik”. The men shake hands and the ladies hug each other. The elders are highly respected and seated at special seats. Everyone exchanges the greetings of Eid, eats, drinks, sings and dances to celebrate the festival.

Although the food might be different from region to region, the main dish, which is an Eid staple, is called “Uyghur polo” (lamb, carrots and rice) which is unique to the Uyghur cuisine. Besides that, laghman (hand pulled noodles), spicy shish kabab, baked samosa (lamb pie) and manta (steamed dumplings) are among the delicacies. A famous dessert that decorates the Eid tables is called sangza (deep fried dough twists). Traditional Uyghur breads, dried fruits, and rock candies are also served on this special day.

(We dedicate this article to our Uyghur brothers and sisters. We send our prayer for their freedom from religious persecution and for restoration of their rights as human beings.)

Composed by Filiz Arslan