Jordanian Eid Il-Fitr Etiquette

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.


  • I quote ” get the celebrating but the anticipating period is weird because it feels like people really want Ramadan to be over”. You are completely right, they do, but will not confess.

  • you are right. the visitation in eid becomes a chore.

    but how else can we keep the family ties and friendship and check on our relatives (selat al ra7m), which is the main purpose of the eid and its visitation ritual? would a phone call suffice? a card sent to their ‘p.o. box’? we were just talking about it in your other blog -internet friendship protocol- would an email to your aunt or uncle on this holiday do the purpose? maybe SMS?

    I love the visitation thingy in el eid. i think thats where the soul of the eid lies. but i wish it involved less travelling, house hopping and the like. it consumes the whole day.

    Plus, people love these visits especially that they get to use the ‘other’ guest living room, of which their own kids and house members are barred to use or enter the rest of the year 😀

    abu mahjoob’s above caricatures are hilarious as usual. especially the third/last one. lol 😀

  • “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 probem is that these “horny leerers” are ruining it for the rest of us decent people.

    This evening I took my brother (who is visiting from the US for EID) to Mecca mall. After entering the mall gate, a guard behind us yelled at us in Arabic “Where do you think you’re going?”. He asked us to come back. He asked what we do for a living, why we are coming to the mall. My brother explained that he is an engineer visiting here from the US (I was quiet since I was totally ashamed of Mecca Mall and of it being part of my country). The guard then asked my brother for his business card. My brother told him he ‘s here on vacation so he’s not carrying his business cards with him. the guard then wanted to know why we came to the mall. At this point my brother started getting upset (rightfuly so as this was very uncivilised). He explained that he is here to buy a mobile phone and to pickup my sister’s phone which was being repaired at a store inside. The moron guard asked us to call the mobile store shop owner, and have him come to the mall gate, or he want let us in (Ihki ma3ah talafon, wu Gulu Yiji lal bab 3ashan a3abirkom). At this point my brother was about to lose it. I’ve heard about Mecca mall preventing men from entering before, but somehow I always went there without encountering this issue, it seems they expect all Jordanian young men to be pigs guilty with no chance of being proven innocent unless escorted by a woman. Do they expect me to go hire a hooker to escort me inside the mall so that i can shop for a t-shirt ?

    Next time I’m going to City Mall. They don’t treat their customer like convicts.

  • Bilal, maybe it would be better if you do silat el ra7em and try to visit your relatives throughout the year instead of visiting 100 people in one day out of obligation!!!!
    Hani, I totally understant your frustration and it is very uncivilised what happened to you but on the other hand, how is the guard to know if you were genuinly going in to shop as opposed to leering at girls and making inapporiate (and often very low) comments? i used to hate going to malls in jordan because guys (and girls) i must say hang around to meet the opposite sex and this means that every girl is bound to be hit on by a guy….
    Nas and Moey, Eid sounds like nightmare in Jordan but I have spent my last 5 eids away from home with no family to celebrate it with and being in amman, despite the leering, the visitations and everything else u mentioned sounds like bliss to me!!! 🙂

  • Sana, that’s the point. A mall is for shopping by definition, why do I have to prove anything ? He’s assuming I’m there to leer. This presumption is insulting to Jordanian society in general, and honestly I think the guard wanted a bribe.

    I won’t make the same mistake again, and will be going to a different mall. Worst yet, before the incident above took place my brother and I had to go around for 30 minutes until we found parking. Even Mecca mall’s cinema isn’t that great compared to the one at Zara center.

  • I just returned from the same scene in Syria. I would just like to add that atleast Jordan (as far as I have seen) does not have these rickety swing sets that get set up in every neighborhood and entire families ride them for a fee. Imagine mouse traps perched on a steep hill, swinging to and fro with one end or the other coming up in the process. Ahhh! Give me Eid in the US of A anyday. Chuck-E-Cheese is atleast a bit more safety conscious.

  • Yes, indeed! I live in the wrong part of town apparently! Although the ones in Syria were not so technologically advanced as you stated. I liked the broken down piece laying on the side in your picture. Or is that the ‘replacement’ car? Speaking of safety, my daughter’s school had a big Eid party with a bouncer slide, the kinds that blow up with hot air. It apparently deflated and many children were injured including one girl who was stuck under the many folds of plastic before she was rescued. May Allah protect our children. (And thanks for responding to the comment.) Eid Mubarak.

  • Um Omar: thanks for the comment. the common ones I see are typically two pieces of rope tied to 2 pieces of worn down lumber, hanging from a bar. Sometimes, instead of the lumber, they’ll use a wheel, and sometimes its just one piece of rope in a u-shape with the pepsi carton wrapped around the bottom for a seat.

    there is a need for more public parks in jordan but in some areas the locals would most likely take down the equipment and sell it.

    as a mother, this might interest you as well:

Your Two Piasters: