Christmas Versus Eid Versus Eid

As we were driving around Amman the other night and the jolly Christmas lights and decorations glared from the balconies of apartments and doors of homes, my friend wondered out loud why there’s so much emphasis on Christmas but not on Eid Al-Adha. My initial response was not all that well thought out as I suggested that perhaps it’s because we as Muslims get two major eventful days while Christians only one. I know Easter is another though I’m referring more to the celebratory ones. Nevertheless, the sudden observation lingered in my head for a while.

For, as my friend pointed out, Muslims have not made any sort of attempt to commemorate Eid Al-Adha, when of the two Eids’ it is also known as Eid il-Kbeer, or the “Big Eid”, compared to the end of Ramadan’s Eid il-Fitr, also known as Eid il-Sgeer, or the “Small Eid”. It is called as such due to the obvious fact that religiously speaking, the former carries more weight and is more significant. Yet, since I can remember, when it comes to celebrations, it’s the former that has always been more lively.

I always figured it was because the small Eid meant the month of fasting was over and we could finally eat, food qualifying as more of a life goal to Arabs, and Jordanians in particular. Perhaps it’s also because an entire religious-based month precedes it, so there’s this big anticipation and preparation for it, while Eid Al-Adha almost comes out of the blue. Even the more religious who might be a bit more aware of it on a conscious level, who tend to welcome Dhul Hijja with a fast, will not be as keen on celebration.

There is really no associated festive culture to Eid Al-Adha.

Eid in Amman usually means people talk about where they’ll be going. But even this time around, I’m not hearing a whole lot of vacation-talk. The only chatter about Eid is the inevitable but temporary confusion over what days will we all get off from work. Maybe it’s because things have become too expensive, or maybe because it has fallen in winter these past years.

Christmas has become a bit more festive in recent years with importation of all the foreign decorative goods. Even Ramadan and Eid il-Fitr has only become a bit more festive fairly recently. Perhaps a few decades from now when Eid il-Fitr and Christmas meet again, a more festive culture will have developed by then in Jordan.

All that being said, and this is neither here nor there, but I do miss Christmas in Toronto. I do miss the decorations, the colors and the Christmas carols that play through the shopping mall speakers, which inevitably become quite annoying by the 24th.


  • hile Eid Al-Adha almost comes out of the blue. Even the more religious who might be a bit more aware of it on a conscious level, who tend to welcome Dhul Hijja with a fast, will not be as keen on celebration.

    I think Pilgrims (hajjajs) feel it more than any of us …

    anyway…kinda ironic…I was chatting to a friend on my ride home this evening about Eid when she asked if I am taking the day off…I don’t quite feel the spirit of Eid at all… and I honestly don’t know why …Even though now Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid fall within the same month, the spirit of the holidays as it pertains to Eid is just not there for me ; I feel the Christmas Holiday joys more …and for many around me as well…

    We try to create a festive atmosphere for the kids by decorating the house and my sisters do the same with theirs…they love it .. In their schools, and particularly because the three holidays (xmas, hanukkah and eid) all fall within the same month, the kids learn carols for all 3 holidays and they sing them in the school assembly for a straight week:D ..interesting i thought!

  • Joy and celebration is a state of mind, one can’t help watching and getting effected by what goes arround you, when you are surrounded by refugee camps, that remind you day in and day out of the miseries our palestinian people going through and you watch the news and see situations in Iraq, Sudan, and the rest of the miserable Arab world you can’t help but get depressed.

  • Christmas in Jordan is my major pet peeve. I moved my family from the US to live in a Muslim country and I am finding it harder and harder to differentiate the two! I don’t mind if actual Christians are celebrating and decorating. But remember that there are only about 10% Christians in Jordan. And I am not sure if that includes all the foreign workers or not. The problem comes when obviously Muslim store owners are decorating for the event. This goes against the grain and there are very clear Hadith about celebrating the holidays of other religions…

    In a time when Muslims are being marginalized in so many places in the world, how come Muslims marginalize their own religion and religious holidays? Eid Al-Adha is falling before Christmas, where are the decorations for that? It makes me very sad for all of these ignorant Muslims. Please stand up for yourselves and be proud of who you are. What are you telling your children when you decorate your shop for non-Muslim holidays and not even for the Muslim ones? Big educational opportunity here for change.

  • Oh, BTW, if the Muslims were the 10% minority in this country, and the Christians the 90%, do you think that they would decorate for Ramadan, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. NOT! Put that in your thinking cap.

  • well, there is the issue of commercialization of holidays. think USA. even here in the US some people debate the massive commercialization of christmas and what have you.

    Its very nice to live the spirit of holidays like christmas but sometimes its annoying. tons of millions of people spend their money and time on gifts and shopping, yet only few of the population are actually interested in doing community service/charity work in such a holiday! eeeer.

    I like Eid el Adha alot actually. I feel the spirit of this holiday when we buy a sheep and pass 2/3 of the meat to orphanages, mosques and the remaining 1/3 to some of my family members who are in need. I still have wonderful and joyful memories of doing this when I was a kid. I am very thankful to my father who did a great job in raising us to follow this kind of holiday spirit.

    the spirit of Eid al Adha and its purpose is sacrificing and giving to the poor. Christmas is meant to be that way too. its not any different. so no, am totally, totally against the commercialization of our Eid.

    If there is one thing left for muslims to reflect on in this era of anti-muslim sentiments and oppression, it would be the spirit of their holidays.

  • In the Holy Land and when Christians formed the majority of main Palestinian cities, Easter celebrations were massive, with boyscout band,pilgrims, traditional dinner, the end of the great lent, and the continuous prayers during the holy week, it’s the Kbeer Eid for us, and Christmas is the minor one. Easter in Greece generates great celebration.
    Tales of when the whole town, boyscout music bands, politicians, ambassadors would wait the arrival of Holy Fire from Jerusalem.
    The current Christmas hype is commercialized and non-religious, which is sadly enough what is going on with Ramadan.

    I just wanted to clarify that Easter is more observed (liturgically speaking).

    Happy Adha and Merry ChristMas to all!

  • It just hasn’t been commercialized as much that’s all I think. And even if it does, I don’t know about the marketing capabilities of corporations here and whether they’ll be able to convince people to buy their stuff.

    Um Omar, go to Saudia Arabia if you hate Christians that much.

  • I think, and correct me I’m wrong, that there are NO decorations for Eid! I mean, Christmas has the characteristic tree and the whole excitement of who gets to decorate the tree!! Also, lights on trees is another fun part of chrismas, but as far as Muslims are concerned Eid has always been an excuse to go out and shop for food (more than is usally the case)! We do not have anything “fun” about el Eid! Nothing to decorate with! All we have is Food Food Food.. so thank God that Christianity exists to give us all the joys of Christmas and Easter (I know that there is much more to Christianity than this but as a Muslim these are the things that I feel most)!!

  • i think “big eid” & “small eid” refers to the number of days, the naming is not from a religious view..
    besides as muslims the two eids r related to a worship; eid al fitir after fasting ramadan, & eid al adha with the hajj,
    maybe bcoz not all muslims go to al hajj every year eid al fitir is more celebrative, although still there is the “10 days of alhejje” & the “odheye”..

  • I think Chaos is right, Big and Small refer to the number of days.

    There are many elements that bring us to celebrating Christmas more than Eids, even if only visually (by lights). On the other hand I think it is just a celebration of ending a year for the west. In germany the “Weihnachtsmarkt” (or christmas markt) opens one month before the chrsitmas, and the other day i was watching a report on TV asking the people who attend this Markt some questions, One intersting question was : “What is the reason for opening this markt and celebrating christmas?” and very strangely many people didnt even know its to celebrate the birth of Jesus or that it is related to Jesus at all. It was the End of the year only for them…
    I geuss for us it is the same, we celebrate the end of the year. it does (to tell the truth) have a more realistic meaning on us, and this makes it visually a nice celebration.

  • I actually just recently learned that there is in fact a period of fasting (I think 10 or 11 days) before Eid El Adha. The lady who told me about it said that the idea is that for each day you fast, one of your sins is forgiven (as I understood it) and that it’s usually practiced by the older generations and that younger Muslims don’t pay it much attention.

    But, as has been said, it all comes down to commercialisation. It has nothing to do with religion – because what you see in the streets of Jordan or Toronto or any other country – are christmas trees and lights, and you hear carols about Santa and Rudolph and snow.

    But then again – I feel that Ramadan has been commercialised here in Egypt – with the lanterns, and the tents. Maybe because (and correct me if i’m wrong) the celebration of Eid el Adha focuses on sacrifice – it’s hard to take it to a commercial level – in the Middle East at any rate – much like Easter (which while it has been commercialised in the West) has retained its more sober religious side in Egypt (and I’d guess the same of Jordan.)

    And to Um Omar’s comments – so much for peaceful coexistence huh? Egypt’s ratio of Christians to Muslims is very similar to Jordan. In that case should us Christian Egyptians not take part in any of the festivities during Ramadan? And again – what people in Jordan are subscribing to has NOTHING to do with a religious holiday – it’s all commercial. You might not realise it but Santa’s elves and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are not mentioned in the Bible.

  • As a Jordanian Christian myself I feel very proud to be part of the most tolerant and welcoming country in the middle east. People and business getting into the spirit is wonderful, granted some of it is commercialism, but thats better than having to be affraid to express your faith like in other countries.

  • Um Ommar, if you lived in the US and in case you haven’t noticed, people don’t even say Merry Christmas any more let alone celebrate Ramadan….its now Happy Holidays so don’t feel bad.

  • “Um Omar, go to Saudia Arabia if you hate Christians that much.”
    I don’t think um omar hate Christians ,she has raised very legitimate question to be debated,if the percentage of the population was switched around ,will the christian allow Muslims to celebrate?,very straight forward question and it needs to be debated ..

  • “I don’t think um omar hate Christians ,she has raised very legitimate question to be debated,if the percentage of the population was switched around ,will the christian allow Muslims to celebrate?,very straight forward question and it needs to be debated ..”

    Minorities generally always try to have a place in the community they are in. when not, then its a weakness in the minority itself.

  • Alurdun, I’m not sure the question she posed was about allowing, but would they. I haven’t heard of anywhere Muslims are not ”allowed” to celebrate according to custom, and am not sure if there is any place Christians are in a place to allow or not allow Muslims to do so.

    The actually stats on Christians in Jordan is only 2.75%, not 10%. Interesting to note that Jordan’s Christian population dropped by half between 1970-2000, in 1970 it was 5.5%. So Um Zaid’s point has merit, in another 30 years there may only be Muslims celebrating Christmas in Jordan.

  • For Christians Easter is ” El Eid el Kbeer” and Christmas is “El Eid el Sgheer” named for religious importance. We celebrate Easter in Jordan a lot more religiously with prayers throughout the 40 day lent season, and daily special masses on the holy week. Also no church weddings are held through lent season.
    The current visual celebrations of Christmas are the “made in china commercialized christmas”
    This trend has grown the last few years only. I grew up in the only christian town in Jordan and yes we had christmas decorations and festivals but stores and businesses didn’t decorate. Now pretty much every store at every mall in Jordan has a christmas tree…it annoys me, if you don’t know what this stands for then don’t put it up!!

    ANYWAYS ..aslan aslan..the Christmas tree has nothing to do with Christianity or christmas or Jesus, in the old testement decorating trees is mentioned as a frowned upon pagan practice were trees were cut carved and decorated with silver and gold, so it is a practice for idoltary and believers were told not to follow it. the Christmas tree was decorated long before Jesus was born.
    Jeremiah 10:2-4
    “Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the sky,
    though the nations are terrified by them.

    3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

    4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.
    Different cultures like Roman and German had different tree decorating traditions, in modern days all those customs poured into Christian Christmas.Does it add to the birth of Jesus or take away from it ??

    El Mohez …Jordanians should unite and abolish all forms of symbolic festivities and just celebrate everything with ka3k o ma3mool …fal yahya Jabri o 3arafat o zala6eemo !!!!

  • Sorry my comments are so long …for me personally i decorate the house, the tree and the whole nine yards, because i chose to. i understand what things mean and don’t mean and am ok with symbols of idol worship, satan…etc. they are pretty ..the devil lures me in with glittery shiny stuff …i love Bidda3. If people knew what things meant would they still decoraate with them? do they care about the meaning ?

  • I agree with many of the comments. The annoyance I feel is with the material manifestations of Christmas decor in Jordan, not with the Christians themselves. I have really been pleasantly surprised with the manners and honest work ethic with many Christians in Jordan.

    The issue here is the IMPORTATION of culture without meaning. It is not only happening with holiday decor, but with fashion, food, music, pop culture, etc. Muslims all over the Middle East have somehow gotten the idea that anything Western is GOOD. There are wonderful things to be learned from the West, but unfortunately we have taken so much of the bad and have forgotten much of the good. I challenge anyone from here to drop into any odd state in the US and walk into a grocery store or post office and I guarantee that someone will 1) open the door for you, 2) smile at you, 3) say hello, 4) and over all be polite to you. Can we say that about Jordan or most ME countries? I am sad to say no. And we know that these manners are a part of our religion. Could we start borrowing and importing these things instead of onion rings??? Please!

  • maha: as usual…you crack me up 😀

    kinzi: you’re right, the figure is officially, closer to 3% than it is to 10%.

    um omar: i see your point and i think it’s a valid one. i’m not a fan of onion rings either 😉

  • and am ok with symbols of idol worship, satan…etc. they are pretty ..the devil lures me in with glittery shiny stuff …i love Bidda3.

    Maha, OH so I take it you fell off the roof the other day and landed on your head…

    just kidding! call me back … and Merry Xmas

  • Um Omar – I appreciate the clarification of your statement and I agree with you about the commercial/capitalist influence of the west on the Middle Eastern culture. We tend to embrace the ‘fluff.’
    But when you say “I have really been pleasantly surprised with the manners and honest work ethic with many Christians in Jordan.” That reminds me of the Arabic expression “Howa messihy bas kwayess.”
    Maybe I’m being over-sensitive but why would you be surprised at the honest work ethic of the Christians in Jordan? At the risk of over-simplifying – there are good/bad people of all sorts out there whether Christian, Muslim, Atheist or whatever.. it seems that you had certain expectations of what a Christian should be like.. but I am glad to see that the Jordanian Christians dispelled that myth for you…

  • I really think that the main thing which nas mentioned that whay aren’t we so festive about the big eid i and why christians have more of a festive celebration of christmas!
    I think that is is related to the people themselves and their culture not to the relegions!!
    For example i can argue that Jordanians aren’t Festive not islam because the practices that happen during these celebrations are created by people!!
    Its not written in islamoc teachings noe christian ones how to celebrate your Eid or christmas
    And what proves this that if you go to egypt for example which their people are known to be more easy going people that us you’ll find the atmosphere there is different !!
    (You should go and see 3eed 2el mawlis nabawi there which is a really nice celebration)
    although in jordan there is not any kind of activity!
    And that why MAHA says that these things arent related to christianity and others argue that these stuff were imported from outside Because Jordanian Christians Didn’t Invent it either!
    They’re like jordanian muslims Too
    Maybe its like msalha1 said because we dont have anything to celebrate for We have been living in a mysery for over during the last 600 years !!!
    Ofcourse this is my opinion so maybe?!!!

  • And To Kinzi and Nas could plz guide me from where you get the stastical figures Because i really enjoy reading these stuff!!
    I mean is there a website or smthng?!

  • Um Omar, I don’t know if you’ve lived long enough in Jordan, but for Jordanian Chrisitians and Arab Chrisitians in general, Islamic festivals is a big event. Almost all Chrisitians have dear Muslims friends that they celebrate both Eids with, and I assume that even if 10% of Jordanians were Muslims nothing would have been different.
    About decorations in shops, do you think the owners of these shops really decoaret their shops because they’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior and the Son of God or because they want their shops to lighten up and look nice and attract more customers?
    Isn’t that the case also in the US?

  • Ammar: i don’t know about kinzi, but i’m guessing she got them from similiar sources as myself, i.e. christian leaders in the community who have more accurate and updated information. i believe also, the last census report detailed some of the findings that kinzi pointed out.

    hareega: thinking about the topic some more today, i tend to agree with you. the primary objective seems to be muslims cashing in the commercialization of christmas. and when compared to eid, there are a lot more devices and instruments to choose from to achieve that purpose. so you have a point.

  • Yes they are decorating their shops out of profit. but another side of the story is that Muslim Jordanians are generally tolerant and respectful towards Christians! And don’t have issues with congratulating Christians on their Eid, where recently the Islamic Sahwa guys and Umms have been saying it Haram.
    It’s just those who lately came from Kuwait and the US with their Sahwa ideologies of the US funded Mudjaheen in qafqaz and Afghanistan are spreading this intolerance, with their attitudes like yours Umm Omar!

    Jordan is an Islamic country, but Islam is practiced differently than in Pakistan, UK, USA and the KSA!

    Pleasantly SURPRISED? Me too

    Where you originally from Umm Omar?

  • Firas: take it easy bro. she’s not talking about simple greetings in the form of congratulations, but all out celebrations. there are muslims who even buy christmas trees for their homes, or businesses. and um omar is right in that regard, there are obvious limitations in islam when it comes to this specific point. even the congratulatories have always been debatable and depend on interpretation, however from a moderate standpoint there are also ahadith (both in words and actions of the Prophet pbuh) that suggest these things should be done in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining tolerance.

  • Salaam ‘Alaikum

    People need to back off of Um Omar a little. She doesn’t hate Christians at all, and made no statements of hate against them, and I believe she has Christian relatives herself.

    I too find it a little sad to see Muslim families here with Christmas trees or buying those scary looking Santa masks for their kids and taking pictures, but when it comes to ‘Eid, it’s like “Oh, big deal,” like the most fun you can have on ‘Eid is eating ma’amul and sitting with relatives you don’t realy like. As for ‘Eid in America, where both Um Omar and I have lived, you don’t even want to know. Our ‘Eids are generally treated with even less respect and reverence than they are here by our own people (let alone by non-Muslims who are even aware that we have holidays).

    There are good things from the West. People in the ME eat Western food, wear our Western style clothing, have Western style furniture, and so on. But you don’t need to take everything. If it were just Christians, I wouldn’t care, but when Muslims are doing it, I do. We have our own holidays, and we can have our own traditions — even those borrowed from other Muslim cultures.

    On another topic, I was reading some statistics about Jordan the other day, and it put the Christian population at about 5%, although it said that “privately,” Christian community leaders believe the number is closer to the one Kinzi said.

  • Acoording to the discussion here i feel that Amman has suddenly turned into the Vatican!!! 🙂
    Common people take it easy, i feel like you’re acting as if you’re in a car race and which relegion is goanna win!!!
    Take it Easy guys we should ubderstand each other every one has has his own customs !!
    let everyone be free!!

  • Im really surprised at the work ethic and honesty of Hindu workers in Dubai….and I am also pleasantly surprised with the integrity of Seikh taxi drivers in New York…..

  • Religion!!!!! Are we all selfish???? should we be discussing who celebrates Christmas or Eid or Divali or any other religion, the best???? serious guys.
    lets all stop and think, and enjoy what should be enjoyed.
    If all of us understood our religions we all would agree that is how we live our lifes and how we celebrate ,that makes the difference.
    some have too much and some have too little but i would say that is the ones who have the little who celebrates the best. Not because they have a big feast or by the way they decorate, its because of the true feelings they have when celebrating there faith.
    But hey who am i to be saying anything just a simple human….

  • i don’t think anthing is wrong with it. i guess muslims should try to put more emphasis on their holidays and make it big so that their kids will be more excited. the whole deal with christmas (comercially) is just the excitement. i’m christian. i make it big. i also make a big deal with decoration for my kids. they like it. they respect what others do. don’t hate, appreciate.

Your Two Piasters: