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.
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.
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!