Celebrating Eid al Fitr

At the end of the month of Ramadan we celebrate Eid al Fitr. Translating into English as the festival of Fast Breaking, Eid al Fitr is three days of celebration where everyone is encouraged to give charity to those in need, and it a time to celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. This year the first day of Eid was on the 8th August. Eid al Fitr  is also sometimes called Little Eid or the Sugar Festival, the later of which became very apparent to me this year as to why it is given this nickname – more about that later.

The preparations for Eid begin in the final days of Ramadan with families making the traditional Ma’amoul biscuits. These biscuits are a buttery crumbly shortbread type biscuit encased around a filling of date paste or crushed nuts.

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No one in Atef’s immediate family makes these biscuits, instead buying them from the bakery. They are a time consuming fiddly biscuit to make, but they are something that I would love to have a go at cooking. A fellow expat blogger from Wadi Musa, Camen wrote on her blog about the experience of making them with her family in law. Check out her post here for the fun that she had. Also if you are wanting to give these biscuits a go yourself the recipe that I’m going to use to make them for Eid al Adha, which is in mid October, is this one  from Sawsan at Chef in Disguise.

On the first day of Eid it is customary to spend the day visiting family. It is one of the rare occasions when visiting is done in day time hours, and not at 10pm at night, so I embrace it whole heartily! People dress in new clothes or their very best and head to their family home to start the visiting for the day.

For us this means heading to Atef’s Mum and Dad’s house arriving there at around midday. Where Atef’s Mum and Dad live is the main area where the Amra family live – in fact within 100m square radius there are 20 houses. After saying hello to Atef’s Mum and Dad we start to make our way around to the homes of all the relatives. With many houses to get around each visit only lasts about 15-20 minutes.

At each house we are offered ma’amoul, chocolates, fruit and served Arabic coffee (which is flavoured with cardamon) or juice. It is impolite to refuse so after the the first 10 or so house you can start to see why I’m associating Eid al Fitr as being called the Sugar Festival!

Alia is offered chocolate, biscuits, sweets and juice which is more sugar than it is juice! To try and limit her intake not only am I eating my chocolate or biscuit but I’m eating 80% of what she is offered when our host is not looking, but there is always the ones that are fed to her directly! I’m buzzing having drunk more coffee than I drink in a year in the space of a few hours along with after fasting for a month to suddenly spend the day gorging on sugar! Alia is buzzing along nicely to her own sugar high. Call me a “mean” mother but Alia’s diet is seriously lacking in sugar!

All up we visited 17 houses – 17 cups of coffee or liquid sugar drink, more chocolates than I can count and completely full on ma’moul. Fortunately for me Arabic coffee is served in small cups with only about 2-3 mouthfuls of coffee per serving.

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The other custom at Eid is for the men to give their close female relatives (sisters, aunties) gifts of money. Children are also sometimes offered money – just a dinar or two. Alia was generously given money by relatives during the day.

At 7:00 we said goodbye at our last house and headed home. It wasn’t until we got home that the “fun” really started for me. I had my first firsthand experience of dealing with a child who had not had a daytime sleep and had entirely too much sugar to eat. Let’s just say that the 4 hours of screaming and carrying on that came with the meltdown was definitely a reinforcement to me of why I keep Alia’s diet almost completely free of processed sugar and why I’m a firm believer in daytime sleeps! I certainly don’t understand how the mothers that I know here can handle dealing with this type of behavior from their children on a all too frequent basis.

For me it was a one off and something that came as a result of celebrating what had been a really lovely day spending time with family and enjoying sharing in each others company, so I really didn’t mind and just gave my over-hyped, over tired little girl lots of cuddles. It’s not like I was sleeping anyway with all the caffeine that I’d consumed!

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15 responses to “Celebrating Eid al Fitr

  1. Hi! Love reading your blog and seeing how you cope with all that comes with being married to a Jordanian! I’ve been here for 3 years now and live in Amman but there are so many similarities when I read your blog! I was wondering if you have learned to speak Arabic? The family you have married into sound great too! What a learning curve we are on! 🙂 I love living in this country and your blog often serves to remind me why! look forward to more! ( and going to try making the cookies too! ) xx

    • Hi there, lovely to meet you through the blogging world. Are married to a Jordanian as well? I’m slowly learning to speak Arabic – languages are not my forte so it’s a slow process. Are you learning and how are you finding it? If you are ever coming down this way you must let me know. I’m always up for a cuppa and a chat with a fellow expat. xx

      • Hi – yes I’m British, married to a Jordanian from a big family too! Am also a bit slow on the Arabic front but trying to pick it up, like you, very slowly! Problem is if I am brave and attempt to speak some Arabic I either get laughed at or they totally don’t get what I say! 🙂 I have 3 children and we love life here! Gosh we would have lots to talk about! Nice to ‘meet’ you too and if I can persuade my hubby to come to Petra I will be sure to let u know! Take care xx

  2. Oh Andrea: I know this is not the right response, but I am picturing the whole traditional family scene which you have described so wonderfully . . . and I can’t but help laugh [in the warmest possible way] picturing place after place, cup of coffee after cup of coffee, watching Alia enjoying the unaccustomed ‘sweeties’ and probably knowing ahead what will happen back home! Nice, but it’s over 🙂 !

    • Laugh away Eha because I certainly was laughing at Alia watching her buzz around on her sugar high! And being a one off I was prepapred to deal with the “consequences”! It was a really wonderful day spending it with lots of extended family. Their warmth and generosity in accepting and involving me into the family is wonderful. 🙂 x

  3. Thanks for this very interesting post. The tradition to go around visiting family reminded me of my own family tradition of visiting family when I was a kid (we also had many family members living in houses close by each other) on New Year’s Day and having to eat & drink what was offered. Unfortunately, some of what was on offer for adults was alcohol so I think my father drove a few times with too much drink in him which wouldn’t be well seen today but didn’t matter back then…I found it interesting that there was a similar tradition in the Muslim world. I guess, if we think about it carefully, we aren’t so different! (Suzanne)

    • How lovely to find some similarities between different cultures through the family traditions of visiting and spending time together. I love that Alia is growing up in a close extended family as although on a smaller scale I grew up in a close extended family in Australia and cherished the family get togethers. Wonderful memories. xx

  4. HI MEM. Nice post. I am a Maamoul fanatic, but with the brown wholemeal flour. Never heard of them until I arrived in ME. My daily lunch every day in Riyadh consists of 2 or 3 maamoul & some small tomatoes!

    • Oh I haven’t had them made with the brown wholewheat flour – will have to search them out. I also hadn’t heard of them before coming here and am a bit partial to them – I like the ones stuffed with dates over the ones stuffed with nuts. Not a bad sounding lunch! 🙂

  5. Oh Andrea I know exactly what you mean about the sugar high and the caffeine overload! Now I am brave enough to turn down the coffee because I am not a coffee person and I hide the cookies and chocolate wrapped in napkins in my bag 🙂
    I make an agreement with the kids, only one sweet item so it is EITHER maamoul OR chocolate. Never both. We try to break up our family visits over the three days of Eid. That helps with the sugar rush 🙂
    P.S. thank you so much for the shout out. I deeply appreciate it and I can’t wait to hear how the maamoul turns out in October

    • I think I’m going to have to try your method from now on Sawsan – from politely refusing the coffee as I’m not a coffee person either to hiding sweets in my handbag! I’ll just have to remember to empty my bag at the end of the day. 🙂 I had a friend from Australia attempt your Ma’amoul biscuits just last week and she was delighted in how they turned out. She said that your recipe was really easy to follow. My turn next.

  6. Andrea, I am so, so glad that you get on wonderfully with Atef’s family (despite things always appearing in the unplugged microwave, haha. I still laugh at that!). Little Alia must’ve been in sugar heaven… 17 houses?! I think I would’ve gone mad with that much socialising! I do remember a similar tradition at Christmas when I was a child though. I ate so many sweets, donuts and chocolates… I didn’t sleep all night. Poor mum.
    The maamoul sound delicious! Can you bring them to our tent feast? Ah, how I wish that was really going to happen. I know this sounds ridiculous but I am convinced that we’d be the best of friends if we lived close by. Thanks for sharing these moments with us xx

  7. Pingback: Celebrating Yom Arafah and Eid al-Adha | Middle East Moments·

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