By Tamjid Alkohali
“How long until Eid?” asked Fatima, with eyes full of happiness.
Despite the problems in Yemen which have stolen the happiness Yemenis’ hearts, Eid al-Fitr is coming soon to return that missing happiness to them.
Eid al-Fitr is the first day after the holy month of Ramadan. Every Arab and Islamic society has its own social customs and traditions for Eid. Yemen is considered the best model of Eid’s customs and traditions in the Arab and Muslim world.
On top of the social customs and traditions, communication between relatives and the happiness of children during Eid is considered one of the factors that makes Eid such a great an occasion.
Fatima, 11 years old, asks her mother every day how much longer there is until Eid starts. Eid is a happy, long story for all the children, adults, and elderly people as well.
This story is narrated by little Fatima and her family. According to them, the preparations for Eid begin days in advance.
During these days, all the markets and malls are crowded with people who are looking for Eid clothes and buying Ja’alat Al-Eid (Eid Sweets) and mothers are preparing Eid cookies at home.
“I need at least two days before the Eid to make various types, flavors, and shapes of Eid cookies,” said Fatima’s mother
Fatima’s mother likes to make Eid cookies with her neighbors. A according to her, they enjoy sharing recipes and feel happy to welcome Eid again.
The celebration of Eid begins on the night of Eid. On this night, no one sleeps. Everybody is busy doing something. “First of all, the family members should take a bath,” said Fatima.
Taking a bath before Eid is a recommendation from the prophet Mohammed and people are keen to follow him
Fatima’s father and her brother go to the Hamam, or “Sauua”. Meanwhile, Fatima and her mother take a bath at home or in Hamam, but not on the night of Eid, because at that time they are busy cleaning the house and preparing Eid cookies and sweets to be offered to guests in the morning
After helping her mother, it’s Fatima’s time to prepare her new clothes and accessories, which she will wear in the morning. It is something she thinks about from the beginning of Ramadan. Her brother also prepares their new clothes which consist of the Thaop, Jambia and Shal, and coat
However, Fatima has another way to draw attention to herself; during Eid, she applies her hands and legs with khethab
Khethab is a black liquid applied in intricate designs to the skin; sometimes it is replaced with Hena’a. There are certain people who practice the craft of drawing shapes on hands with Hena’a or khethab
“A day before Eid, I go with my friends in the neighborhood to a khethab artist to draw our hands with khethab,” added Fatima
The family now ready to celebrate the first day of the Eid. They go to sleep for the last few hours of the night in order to wake up early.
“Usually, the first day of Eid is hard on people to adjust their sleeping hours back to normal night hours after changing them to the day during Ramadan,” said Fatima’s mother.
At about 6 o’clock, Fatima’s father with her brother get dressed their new clothes, put perfume on, and pray Eid prayers in the mosque. “I like to attend Eid prayer; it makes me feel the Eid spirit,” said Fatima’s brother.
Fatima’s mother helps her daughter wear her new clothes and gives her a big hairstyle. Then, they both prepare Ja’alat Al-Eid and Eid cookies beautifully in the guests room and light incense to fill their home with pleasant aromas.
After praying, Fatima’s father goes to buy fresh meat for lunch and goat liver to cook for breakfast. “Eid breakfast should be special because it comes after a long month of fasting,” said the father.
Finally, the family has breakfast together. The father with his son leaves the house to start their journey to visit their relatives while Fatima and her mother stay at home receiving guests and offering juices, coffee, and Ja’alat Al-Eid and then preparing the lunch at noon.
During the journey of visiting female relatives, Fatima’s father gives them As’ab Eid or Oyadah (the money given to children and women on the day of Eid to show gratitude. It is one of the oldest and most important traditions of Eid, and it is still practiced today).
Fatima and her mother also get As’ab Eid from the male relatives who visit them. “I hope to get a lot of money this Eid to be able to buy something good with it,” said Fatima.
After visiting all the relatives and exchanging greetings and congratulations, Fatima’s father and brother come back home to have the lunch.
In the afternoon, men go to chew Qat with friends and other male relatives while women in the large house welcome all the female and children family members into a wonderful family atmosphere.
Children gather and play near the house. “My favorite game is to collect money in order to buy Tmash (fireworks) though my mother doesn’t like it,” said Fatima.
Fatima’s mother can’t say no to her daughter during Eid. She just wants to see a wide smile on her face.
In the evening, all the families and children are tired and dream of going their home to sleep.
The next day, the family continues the celebration of Eid. “In the past, we used to travel to Aden or Hudaydah but with the bad economic and political situation in the country, it has become difficult. However, we still have some other choices to have fun during Eid,” said Fatima’s mother
The families who don’t have the ability to travel to other cities go to the public gardens and parks, have lunch outside, or have a picnic in beautiful places such as Shabam, Kokaban, and Wide Dahar. These places become crowded with people, but children are still happy.
That is how Yemenis spend Eid, and how family meetings continue during the first three days after Ramadan.