Reinventing Easter, Passover and Other Holiday Meals in a Time of Limits

Reinventing Easter, Passover and Other Holiday Meals in a Time of Limits

Hassan Chami, a pharmacy owner, runs a Ramadan food festival in Dearborn Heights, Mich., that in past years has brought in nearly 10,000 guests and more than 40 vendors. This year’s was supposed to take place every Friday and Saturday night from May 10 to May 23, going until 3 a.m. so the area’s sizable Muslim population could break their daily fast together with the predawn meal known as suhoor. (Ramadan in the United States runs this year from April 23 to May 23.)

Mr. Chami has canceled the event, and is donating some of the sponsorship money he received toward buying supplies for local hospitals. He also owns a restaurant, the Terry Melt, which, along with other festival vendors, is giving away free food to hospital workers. Mr. Chami, 31, is sad about canceling the festival, but feels that his relief effort is in the spirit of the occasion.

“Ramadan is a month where you deprive yourself physically to allow yourself to feel how others are feeling in times of need,” he said.

Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is already in full swing. It is celebrated over 13 days, beginning with the spring equinox (this year just before midnight on March 19). People throw parties, set up their haft-sin (a collection of seven items like garlic and vinegar that symbolize hope for the new year), and eat sabzi polo ba mahi, fish with herbed rice.

Credit…Katayoun Kishi

Katayoun Kishi, a data manager in Atlanta, spent the Tuesday before the start of Nowruz, known as Chaharshanbe Suri, joining her mother and older sister in the tradition of jumping over a fire. But health concerns inspired some new twists: “We stood six feet apart from each other when we jumped over the fire, and we had tea out of Styrofoam cups so no one would have to wash any potentially contaminated dishes,” she said.

They called off the party for 100 that they’d been planning to host, and because most Atlanta restaurants have been shut down, they weren’t able to get shirini, traditional sweets eaten during Nowruz, from their local bakery. The haft-sin has been pared down, as Ms. Kishi wasn’t able to find everything at the store.

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