I started writing this post a few weeks ago and then just kinda forgot about it. Such is the level of professionalism I possess when it comes to my blog. That said, onwards!
It always fascinates me to find out about other cultures, so I thought it’d be interesting for others to read about mine. And since Eid just recently passed, what better thing to write about than it?
Imagine spring cleaning, Christmas eve, Christmas day, Thanksgiving and a little bit of Halloween all squished into one occasion. THAT is Eid. For those of you who don’t know, there are two Eids celebrated by Muslims; one at the end of the month of Ramadan, and one at the end of Hajj. The one that just passed, the Hajj one, is considered the ‘greater’ Eid. Both Eids last for 3 days, and both are celebrated a little differently from each other. Also, celebrations differ according to where you are in the world and the culture prevalent in the area. Here, we have a comparatively low-key way of celebrating it compared with other parts of the world, since we live in Saudi away from our relatives.
T minus one: The night before Eid
This is the spring cleaning, Christmas eve and Thanksgiving part of the whole deal. The frantic deadline cleaning of things otherwise left to rot for the whole year, the excitedness of Christmas Eve, the drama of Thanksgiving, plus the going out to buy loads of candy to give to kids. This night, in my house is the worst. An absolute nightmare. Mom going from one room to the next freaking out about, what in my opinion, seem to be trivial things. ‘THIS HASN’T BEEN DUSTED!!!’ ‘WHEN WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR SHEETS??’ ‘I NEED TO CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE!!’ ‘ALL YOUR CLOTHES NEED TO BE IRONED FOR THE MORNING PRAYER!!!’ ‘I have to make *dessert* for the morning. WHERE IS THE *random ingredient*?!’,’WHY ARE YOU ON THE COMPUTER??!!! LOOK AT ME, I’M WORKING MY ASS OFF.(ok, my mom wouldn’t say ‘ass’)’
All that is normal. What set this year’s eve of Eid apart was my mom’s random idea to bake this dessert thingy that she hadn’t tried in ages but wanted to make to serve guests who’d come to visit later. So there we are, in the middle of the house, which was a mess, with my mom BAKING. The thing she was making was a traditional dessert made out of sandwich bread practically dipped into a vat of sugary syrup and milk and stuff and baked. It sounds and looks gross, but tastes OK…if you wanna die of diabetes. So yeah, she’s a little confused about how to go about adding the sugar syrup, so she asks my dad. My dad, unlike most Pakistani men, cooks. He is an experimental cook, and most of the time he makes food so good it puts all my mom’s hard work to shame. Anyways, she asks my dad about the sugar thing, and he goes like’ oh, it’s nothing. I have a short-cut. Add the sugar on top of the soggy bread stuff and put it in the oven. It’ll melt and go all the way to the bottom of the pan.’ ‘Are you sure?’ my mom asks dubiously. ‘This isn’t one of your experiments, is it?’ My dad assured her it wasn’t. He’d made it by this short-cut method before and it was fine.
30 minutes later….
My mom in hysterics. She’s doing that thing where she talks to herself, but it’s really for the benefit of those listening. After hollering at my dad some, she went to do some damage control and threatened him not to come back on the kitchen. My dad, FOR ONCE, had the good sense to refrain from cracking a joke at a time like this. Normally, that’s what he would do, while I would internally slap my forehead. Men.
During this whole thing, us kids were laughing. We know our parents, and they rarely fight. This was just one of those rare reversals where we just watched our normally calm mom lose it and my dad be quiet for once. LOL. Everybody slept late, while I stayed up during what was left of the night, and did some beauty maintenance. (I even cut my hair… by myself! I used this short-cut DIY thing I learned from someone, and it’s not bad!)
Most people, if they have sisters or friends who’re available, gather at one person’s house and put henna on each other’s hands. It’s a Pakistani cultural thing, but I’ve never been able to understand it. Put stinky stuff on your hands and become voluntarily handicapped for an hour. Plus you’re at the mercy of those putting it on you to do a good job. They could just screw you over and you’d be stuck with chicken prints on your hands for a week. So yeah, I do it purely when I see I won’t be spared by my friends if I don’t. Path of least resistance and all.
In Pakistan, this night is the busiest night of the year. Shops stay open ALL night and the malls are packed with people buying last minute accessories and clothes. It’s a thing there that you have to wear new stuff on eid, from head to toe. I don’t bother. I just need new clothes, the rest is optional.
Eid Day One to Three
We wake up at dawn for the morning prayer and get ready to go for the congregational Eid prayer that starts with the first ray of sunlight. I rarely bother with makeup anymore in the mornings. I don’t get it, we’re exhausted from the night before so will undoubtedly fall asleep as soon as we get back, so what’s the point? So I just change into my main Eid dress which, for once, was something to my taste. I was at the mercy of my aunt in Pakistan, but thankfully, she sent me a gorgeous white flowy gown thingy, with silver and grey embroidery and an ornate brooch thingy in the middle. I’m not good at describing clothes.
(Note: another reason I was happy this Eid was because along with clothes, I got sent REAL PHYSICAL HANDWRITTEN LETTERS from a few cousins. That combined with presents of jewelry made it the best package received ever. PLUS, check this. The jewelry that I got sent was FAKE CLAIRE’S. I know there is no tween accessory chain store Claires in Pakistan. I laughed my head off when I saw the surprisingly well-modeled-after packaging. So smart, our Pakistani pirates. Didn’t have the heart to tell this to the cousin who sent it though. keke)
So yeah, I was happy with ‘em and quickly departed from the house for the prayer. The prayers are held outside town in the open. Don’t worry, they have carpeting and even potted plants. Just for a day. In the middle of the desert. *rolls eyes* Anyways, Eid prayer is a nice time because you meet all your friends and get to check out each other’s outfits. But mainly, we check out the Saudi ladies out.It’s a sad yet promising thing that as each year goes by, we see less and less outrageously dressed Saudy women. There was a time when we felt permanently stuck in the 80’s or 90’s with the gaudy accessories, eye-sore prints and over-applied make-up. We didn’t mind because it provided us with cheap entertainment.*sigh* They’re learning. Drat.
We take pictures and on our way home, stop by the ‘Lake’, an artificial paradise, and take more pictures. (This is just for the sake of our relatives back home, so we can send them pictures.)I feel like shit ‘cause I stayed up all night and have nothing on my face. I am in awe of those women who show up for prayer with a whole train of kids, with perfectly styled hair and make-up. Even the kids would have princessy ringlets that look like they’d take hours to hot-iron. Whatever. I bet the maid does it for them.
We finally get home. Finally. I have breakfast, get ‘Eidi’ money from my parents (ka-ching) and go to sleep. I forgot to mention the main point of this Eid. It’s not to dress up or take large amounts of money from your parents, its to ‘sacrifice’ a goat or cow or whatever bovine animal you please, and give a part of the meat to the poor. You give the rest to our neighbors and friends, and keep whatever remains, if any remains at all. I slept through all that, thank God. When I woke up, everything was done and gone. YAY!
In Pakistan, there’s this weird thing I noticed about the animal-sacrificing thing. (In their opinion, I guess I’d be the weird one) People buy their animal, and since they all might not have back yards like we do, they tie ‘em up outside the gates of their houses or in specially set up tent-barns. IT STINKS LIKE NOTHING YOU OR I CAN IMAGINE. Yet kids and young boys flock to them, pet them, walk ‘em around like gigantic pet dogs. It’s morbidly fascinating. They seem to love their animals, which I guess makes sense, since it is a sacrifice and you’re supposed to sacrifice something dear to you, but then come Eid day, they happily watch as the butcher dude comes and kills it. So. Weird.
Not to say that Eid in Pakistan doesn’t totally trump Eid elsewhere. Eid is a family holiday, and I miss my relatives terribly when I’m not with them. From the three days of Eid, one is spent at home, one with your dad’s side and one with your mom’s. The whole extended family (what we call a khandaan) gathers into one room and the us kids enter and prey on them for Eidi money. Later, envelopes bursting with cash, we go out and blow it all somewhere. It’s incredibly fun, no matter what age you’re at. The only sad thing is that once you’re married/employed, out goes your Eidi-earning rights. Then you gotta PAY, baby.
I think I should cut it short. This is getting too long.
Rest of the Eid for us passes in a more normal way. We have parties, barbecues, family friends come over with presents, etc. Here in Saudi, most people give you candy instead of money for Eidi, which I’m cool with too, since it’s usually the good stuff.
The main Eid party here is practically wild. Usually held outdoors at a restaurant, it’s a huge gathering in which our moms have fun and we kids get embarrassed. I just feel bad that this is the only time they can act like little kids so I indulge them. After dinner, the moms get up and play ‘kiddie’ party games (musical chairs, bingo, etc) and will cheat, manipulate, and outright lie to win the useless presents no one really wants. It’s just for fun, but it really does get embarrassing sometimes to watch them shrieking like that. I wonder how bad it would be if alcohol were allowed in our religion. *shudders*
Question: If you’re Muslim and reading this, how do you celebrate Eid? What do you like best about it?