Eid il-Fitr, just like the holy month that precedes it, is naturally a religious holiday and celebration. In Islam, there is an entire list of “Eid Etiquette” rules or guidelines to follow and many of those rules have become embedded in the way we celebrate the day. The sunnah (way of the Prophet pbuh) outlines things like taking a bath, wearing one’s best clothes, having breakfast, paying zakat il-fitr before prayers so that the poor can enjoy it, praying the Eid prayer at the mosque, taking a different route home.
But just like Ramadan, there are many cultural practices that have become entwined with those which are religious. Some of which are positive, and others which may be perceived as negative. Actually, negative might not be the right word but you’ll get my point in a moment.
On the day before, people are practically putting down bets on whether the next day will be Eid or not. The minute that it’s announced, a cheer will ring through the city like the national football team just scored a goal in the World Cup. I get the celebrating but the anticipating period is weird because it feels like people really want Ramadan to be over.
Much of the first day of Eid il-Fitr is spent on a tug-of-war visiting schedule that I am constantly confused by and unfamiliar with. People will visit each other for about 15-20 minutes before going off to visit someone else. But again, who visits who is just beyond me. There are these unwritten rules and on the surface it appears like chaos theory at its best. In most cases one family will visit another in the latter’s home, before the latter visits the former family in the formers’ home. Which of course, doesn’t make sense, but c’est la vie.
I think this visitation ritual worked better in the past, where cities were smaller and people knew each other. These days, we live in our own little splendid isolation bubbles and we transport ourselves in cars from one home to another. Alienation is the consequence of city life and that is reflected in the way old Eid traditions are carried out today. Also, it ends up being a ritual of seeing people you usually would have no interest in seeing, and thinking of ways to avoid the inevitable lingering obligation. For example, this post was written in the middle of a current visitation. But I’m speaking for myself now.
Now the ma’moul (miniature eid cakes) is fine, but there is just too much coffee oriented with Eid. It’s just too much caffeine for the first day and you end up crashing by the end of it. And there’s also too much smoking involved. Granted, you are technically “allowed” to smoke in the regular manner on a non-smoking day, but it’s not an excuse to chain smoke in people’s houses.
And then there’s the eidyyeh, the giving of money to certain family members, which is also confusing. Kids and mothers get paid, that’s a no-brainer, but what about everyone else? And who does the paying? And how much? And is a gift certificate also suitable?
What’s with the 100 SMS messages from people I don’t know?
Yesterday, as I drove around the city for a bit, I noticed that there was an increase in leering. Usually I feel it decreases during Ramadan because naturally people are hypocritical, but it seems men feel like they have a free pass to leer at girls walking by. The only reason I noticed this last night was that it also felt like their leers held on for longer than what is usually “appropriate”. It was like they were experiencing their first encounter with the female species.
While I don’t have a big problem with the fireworks, the cherry bombs have really got to stop.
Starting on the second day most people, well not most, but a lot of people will do their best to skip town. In Jordan, common destinations like the Dead Sea and Aqaba tend to be packed, so Amman becomes a bit emptier it seems. Although given the falling standards of living, less and less people can afford to vacation or simply take a trip. Meanwhile, alcohol shops open up, as will discos, bars and clubs in the next few hours.
And that’s Eid il-Fitr.
Eid Al-Adha is really not so different, except for the sacrificial lambs and the longer vacations.
In any case, the way Eid tends to go down in Jordan is relatively boring and I don’t know why. I’ll be channel surfing various Arab stations and every one of them will at some point in the day, show a montage of how Eid is celebrated in their own country, within their own culture. And all of them look like their having fun. Like there’s something to do.
I don’t know why ours feels mundane and dull. It’s like the over-obsessive mother who schedules play time and the breakdown of every single activity so that the kids end up having no fun at all.
On the other hand it does beat my last 6 or so Eids, which consisted of waking up at 6am to take the bus across town to pray, before visiting relatives briefly and then rushing off to a class or a midterm.