Eid in the Life of a Yemeni Family

national YEMEN

Yemeni kids celebrate Eid festival their way share candy

By Elham Hassan & Amira Alsharif

For National Yemen

SANA’A- Even the child who has not learned to count knows when it is ten days before Eid. Shaima, 4 years old, opens her hands and starts counting on her fingers “sleep, and week, sleep and week, sleep and week…sleep. Then comes Eid” she says to answer when Eid will come.

For 10 year old Aiat, all things happy happen during Eid. Aiat says she will have new clothes, money, endless sweets and juice and will even go with her father to visit her dearest cousins, grandpa and grandma. The most thrilling about Eid she says? It only happens twice a year.

“Papa said in Eid he will borrow my Uncle’s car and drive us to our family village” Aiat gleefully continued, “if I save some of the money I got during Eid, Papa will even take me to the park.

Aiat believes that her father, Yahya, may just be putting her numerous demands with “in Eid” answer. This is because many older people always answer questions with “in Eid,” even if it has nothing to do with the holiday. However, the saying has become a largely symbolic expression to say to wait until the circumstances are better, when conditions allows, or when there is time.

When people say, “before the day break of Eid,” the meaning of this saying changes. Instead, it means something is unlikely to happen, because in the early morning of Eid everyone is in a hurry between the two hours between dawn prayer and Eid prayer.

Some mornings are incredibly busy, Tamany, a 27 year old mother of five kids that includes Aiat, says that even though all of her kids spend the few days before Eid preparing their clothes over and over, they still need help the morning of Eid.

“My older child and my husband, Yahya, obviously can wear their clothes without help, but they still need help looking for their clothes and I need to help to handing out the necessary items such as perfume. That is, after spending a long time waking them up, and rushing him to Eid prayer with my kids,” said Tamany.

However, all of the exhaustion of the preparation vanishes when she sees her husband walking with all of the kids beaming and perfectly dressed.

After the busy morning of preparation and Eid prayers, the day of Tamany and Yahya is just beginning. Yahya has to visit his three married sisters in three separate areas and on top of that, his two aunts-in-law and his sister-in-law before the day even really begins. In order to travel, he will need to send about $50, or a quarter of his salary. He is fortunate as his brother has a car which will save him more money than he would ordinarily have to spend.

Tamany on the other hand, has many preparations to make for her visitors after she sends her kids with their father. Already, Tamany has spent 10 days, like many other women in Yemen, preparing the house for the holiday, cook and do last minute shopping.

However, given the recent challenges that Yemen has faced, Tamany says that the time it takes to clean the house doubles. “Cleaning the house was already a problem, but now it is a real serious problem. There is no water and even when there is, there is probably no electricity to pump it up,” says Tamany.

Despite  of all efforts of women such as Tamany, they complain that the men are only in the house for what is a short period of time.

While Tamany is cleaning, Yahya and his children are nearing the end of the visits to their relative’s homes. At the homes of their relatives, Yahya avoids eating at all costs, while his kids eat as much as possible, even hiding food in their pockets. That is because with Eid, breakfast comes after the Eid prayer and the slaughter of the Eid cow. So, Yahya and his children rush off home to help sacrifice the Eid cow and eat again.

Due to the high prices of cows this year, the price for a cow nears $130. As a result, Yahya has to split the cost with his father and brother to buy one.

Yahya and Tamany’s family enjoy the day and then after dinner, Yahya, like all other men, chew quat with some relatives. Tamany on the other hand, goes to her mother’s house with the kids, where she gathers with her married sisters and sisters-in-law. ,

Aiat and all of the other kids and Tamany’s mothers house  enjoy playing and making noise knowing full well the next Eid won’t happen for another 9 months. .

Aiat understands that many things will change in the coming year. “This is the last Eid in which I will join my father and brothers in visiting my cousins and aunts.” Her father, Yahya, said that she would be a woman next year and that it will be better for her to stay with her mother.

When asked if she felt sad about this, she said no, “my father told me that I will have more money if I stay and home.”

What Aiat doesn’t know is that not only will she be far from the door, windows will also be far for her as wel. She will not be able to see Eid and thus, the joy and happiness that comes with it. Year after year, Eid will become less about joy and more about responsibility. Although Eid ends, the headaches will continue for three days. Yahya’s kids keep asking him to take them about, and saying “in Eid” loses its potency when the next Eid is so far away. They retreat to their mother in a similar pursuit for things that they can no longer obtain outside of Eid.

The aftermath of Eid also brings a wide range of challenges. From small problems, such as Yahya’s son impetus to continually light fireworks inside the house, despite reprimands from is mother, to bigger problems such as the worries about about how much money they spent during the Eid, and what to do with the little they have left. All of these will be dealt with in the coming year.

But as they wait for the next Eid, may they grow a little wiser, and their lives become a little more peaceful.