Eid is a day of blessings, happiness and celebrations for Muslims all over the world. While all of us love Eid holidays and the pre-Eid preparations, the significance and excitement of the actual occasion has somewhat died. The customs and traditions of Eid seem to be things of the past laid to rest in the memories of people who once celebrated Eid with much enthusiasm and considered it to be a leisure pursuit.
Today, Eid in our country is celebrated or should one say passed differently. Most of us belonging to the middle class and upper middle class prefer sleeping through the Eid day. We believe there is nothing to do. Most of us sleep late at night and thus are not fresh or excited for Eid prayers but then when are we ever excited to pray? Let me leave you on that thought for a few seconds.
Gone are the days when collecting and exchanging Eid cards was a pride for kids and meeting relatives and cousins was a thrill. Twenty four year old Zehra who grew up in the nineties recalls the excitement of Eid in her childhood, “I loved making small Eid cards for my parents, friends and teachers. I painted them myself and felt extremely pleased when they appreciated it. Me and my siblings waited eagerly for Eid greeting cards from our friends and then stuck them up on the walls of our room. The spirit of Eid in those days was just overwhelming!”
It is now considered boring to stay at home and wait for people to come to your house or go to their place pretending to enjoy a conversation with people you would never have chosen as relatives had you been given choice. Also it’s hard to convince yourself they were not lying when they insisted that you stay for a longer time.
Meeting and talking to people in the real world is not as much fun as socializing with them in the virtual world of Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and other social networking sites. “I would rather spend my day exchanging Eid greeting on Facebook than going to people’s houses and realizing I have nothing to talk to them about since we know about everything going on in each other’s lives through our statuses and photos etc on Facebook” says sixteen year old Niha. Niha is not different from most teenagers who are of the same opinion.
The Generation Y is too busy with the Internet, their ipods and with their parents loading them with all the luxuries they can. What would collecting some cheap Eid cards mean to these young people when they have gadgets and other sources of entertainment worth thousands in their hands? The little enthusiasm left now seems only to be of new clothes and shoes which too will vanish soon enough. There seems to be no point of getting excited about new clothes in an age when we buy clothes and dress up for parties all the time. So new clothes, movie treats, gifts and eidee-pocket money, the consumption of rich traditional foods, and getting together for dinner parties is plain boring.
Those born in the fifties, sixties and seventies have reminiscences of how exciting Eid used to be. They waited the whole month of Ramadan for the big day following it. The excitement of new clothes, eidee, the delicious food and family gatherings was immense.
The bygone days talk of bigger families where people were strongly bonded to each other. They were kept together by the leading elders. Qamar, recalling her days from the fifties says, “We would make it a point of meeting our whole family during the three days of Eid. Be it immediate or extended. Half the people would come to our place while the rest, we would go to meet. Everybody met everybody, exchanged Eid greetings and spread joy”.
Comparing the 50’s and today is not very hard, people now have become very limited as to who they meet. They have become restricted to their close family and circle only. The concept of being a part of a bigger group and identity is not so important anymore. Eid means to spread love, joy and compassion. The whole meaning of Eid finishes when you don’t meet your relatives, old friends and both in need. No occasion can be enjoyable if you take out its true essence.
Mona, while recollecting memories of Eid from her younger days in the 70’s says, “Eid was the biggest day of the year for me! I got to have three different outfits which I would be eager to show-off to my friends and cousins. My parents participated completely in the preparations which could never be complete without bangles and henna. We went out on Chand raat to get all the last minute stuff but now as a mother, I don’t like the idea of my children going out on Chand raat. I am terrorized by suicide attacks and the state of the country. I know I’m killing the spirit of Eid for them but I’m just so afraid to let them roam around in crowded places!”
Hectic routines, competitive professional lives and unstable economic conditions also contribute towards killing the enthusiasm of not only Eid but other religious and national occasions too. With no break from work routines, long working hours and endless traffic jams, people want to grab any opportunity of relaxation and Eid holidays seem to be the perfect time to put their feet up. For this hard working segment of the youth, Eid holidays are the best time to catch up on sleep. The holy month of Ramzan is not celebrated with the same zeal and passion as before.
People seem to be less enthusiastic about fasting and the old customs of sending food items at the time if iftar to the neighbours seems to be disappearing too. “Everything is so expensive these days, people find it difficult to feed their own children good during Ramzan, let alone sending expensive fruits and treats to the neighbours!” exclaims Saima, a housewife. It has become extremely difficult for the middle class and lower middle class to truly enjoy and participate in these festivities.
The economic instability of the country has a lot to contribute towards the changing attitudes of the society. While prices of all commodities consumed more in Ramzan should be lowered, instead they reach for the sky in Pakistan every year. Who would want to send a bowl of fruit chaat to their neighbours when they can hardly afford some for their own children?
The case is similar regarding Eid shopping, parents are not excited about purchasing expensive clothes for their children and children on the other hand are not happy being unsatisfied with what they are given. However, throughout the world, prices are lowered and stores go on huge sales during festival holiday seasons such as Christmas. Of course, all this bring the enthusiasm levels of Eid gushing down. But, it must not be forgotten here that the meaning of Eid does not lie in exchanging food and buying clothes only. Eid is a celebration of fasting a whole month, a celebration of abstaining from all bad and evil. It is a day to be thankful to Allah and to spread love.
Unfortunately while Eid is uninteresting and dull to us Muslims, the enthusiasm of days such as Valentines and Halloween has increased significantly. The heavy influence of western culture is greatly responsible for the lack of interest in religious festivals. Market places, restaurants and all places of entertainment are bombarded with Valentine decorations to mark the day, making it as interesting as possible. Cards, chocolates and flowers are exchanged widely. Why can’t the same be done for Eid? Valentine, Christmas and Halloween parties are the place to be. However, On the other hand, Eid Milan parties are boring and so not cool. This seems to be our own inattention towards our own religion and culture.
With a little effort and love for our own roots and identity in heart, the true spirit of Eid can be revived if not for our own sake but for our children and the generations to come. Let us all celebrate Eid with true happiness and zeal this year.