Eid: Celebration for the Young and Old
by Mohamed Osama
Editor's Note: As of today (November 15, 2004), Ramadan has ended and we are now in the period of of the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which is usually a three day holiday in Egypt.
The word Eid is an Arabic name that means a festivity, a celebration, a recurring happiness, and a feast. In Islam, there are two major Eids namely "Eid al-Fitr" (Festival of Breaking the Fast) celebrating the end of Ramadan and "Eid al-Adha" (Festival of Sacrifice) which coincides with the Hajj and commemorates prophet Abrahams sacrifice of a sheep in place of prophet Ishmael.
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslims after fasting the month of Ramadan as a matter of thanks and gratitude to Almighty Allah. It takes place on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the lunar calendar (1). Eid al-Fitr is a happy celebration with new clothes, gifts, and plenty of good food. Though technically, Eid al-Fitr is one day, Eid festivities usually last three days in Egypt with vacations for schools, universities and government offices. Some stores and restaurants are closed during Eid, too.
The Eid day starts with a small snack followed by Eid Prayers (Salat al-Eid) in congregation attended by men, women and children. Afterwards neighbors, friends and relatives start greeting each other. The most common greeting is "Eid Mubarak" (Have a blessed Eid). Children are normally given gifts, which traditionally are new clothes to wear throughout the Eid. Also, women (particularly mothers, wives, sisters and daughters) are commonly given special gifts by their loved ones.
It is customary for children to also receive a "Eidyah" from their grown-up relatives. This is a small sum of money that the children receive, to spend on all their activities throughout the Eid. Children wear their new clothes and go out to amusement parks, gardens or public courtyards based on how much their Eidyah affords. The amusement parks can range from the huge ones on the outskirts of CairoNile, felucca Nile rides is one common feature of Eid celebration in Egyptian villages, towns and cities. For a lot of families from working neighborhoods, Eid celebration also to small mobile neighborhood rides consisting of swings, much like a neighborhood carnival. In a lot of neighborhood courtyards, kids also gather around a storyteller, a puppeteer or a magician mesmerized by Egyptian folktales or by a grownups sleight of hand. It is also customary for kids to rent decorated bikes to ride around town.
Eid is a time for family gatherings and since a lot of Egyptian city dwellers are first or second generation immigrants from towns and villages, those gatherings can involve traveling and thus it is the busiest time of the year for highways and trains. Since most Egyptians live in close proximity to the includes picnics in green areas including parks, zoos, botanical gardens and even green islands on major roads.
The families gatherings involve cooking and eating all kinds of Egyptian food but the item most associated with Eid al-Fitr are Kahk (2) (singuler=Kahka) which are cookies filled with nuts and covered with sugar powder. Egyptians either bake it at home or buy it in the bakery. Thus, a bakery crowded in the last few days of Ramadan with Kahk buyers is a common scene. TV in Egypt celebrates Eid, too, with a continuous marathon of movies as well as programs featuring live interviews from all over Egypt of both public figures and everyday citizens, sharing their Eid celebrations.
So if your Egypt visit coincides with Eid, you can either share with Egyptians their celebrations or catch-up on your shopping by benefiting from Cairos and Alexandrias commercial districts least crowded days of the year. * The author is a grown-up who still longs for his Eid days as a child.