We had a wonderful experience on Sunday evening. Our neighbors, Rizwan and Irfan - (brothers and flat owners) invited us to join their family in Eid Celebrations. We weren't too familiar with the Muslim festival called Eid. I thought I'd better do a little research before we went to the family gathering!
Eid ul-Fitr is a three day holiday marking the end of the 30 day period of Ramadan. The word Eid means "festival," and Fitr, "conclusion of the fast." In my mind, Eid is most similar to Christmas. It is considered one of the 2 most important Muslim holy celebrations. As with Christmas, many wonderful foods, prayers & well-wishes, gifts and thanks are shared with family and friends during this joyous period.
We all got dressed up - typically you should wear a new outfit on this occasion to mark a new beginning. Eid ul-Fitr follows the reserved, reflective time of Ramadan, which is not unlike the Christian period of Lent).
After removing our shoes we were warmly welcomed by the family into their home. We sat on large cushions and pillows surrounding the edges of the large, open living room/dining space.
Beautiful tablecloths were spread out in the center of the floor - and the "table" was set. A feast of spiced chicken, mutton, rice, yogurt and bread was spread before us - all traditional foods. The meats were roasted or simmered until delicate. Not too spicy, but the dishes were full of flavor from complex mixtures of herbs and masala. There is no alcohol in a proper Muslim house, so we were refreshed with cold water and icy Coca-Cola.
The family of five brothers and three sisters, their mother, and all of the children (and the 4 of us) gathered around the "table" and shared this large, wonderful meal. Audrey especially liked the chicken, and Evan the mutton and rice! The meal ended with Indian sweets (similar Gulab Jamun).
After the meal there was conversation - the children all speak English quite well, as do most of the eight siblings (our hosts). But after the meal had ended and the table was cleared, I noticed there was a subtle excitement in the air - and it was growing by the minute.
The children were keeping a close eye on their uncles. Waiting for a cue. The kids were anticipating what is known as "Eidi." This is the blessing of good tidings and often the exchange of gifts between family and friends.
In Rizwan and Irfan's family the tradition of Eidi includes the passing out of rupees... in small bundles of ten rupee and 100 rupee notes. Each uncle and then each aunt, and finally the family matriarch (grandmother to all the younger children) each handed out little bundles. There was much laughter, teasing, children jostling for position (the kids had to line up before receiving their Eidi from each relative) and a little wrestling - all in fun.
We really had a blast! Evan and Audrey were included in the Eidi gifts (which was very, very generous!). Lesa and I loved watching all the antics, sharing conversations, joking, and getting to know our neighbors, their families and their culture a little better.