When I was a child, I used to have this habit of going through Michael’s (the arts and crafts store) flyers that came in the newspapers. (Now I go through Michael’s emails, so some things never really do change.) Anyway, I’d point at everything I liked in the flyers circa 1999 and I would say “I want this, I want this, I want this, I want this”. Then when I’d be done with Michael’s, I’d pick up Toys’R’Us flyers or other flyers of my interest, point at everything I liked and say “I want this” to no one in particular. 

At that time, Ramadan and Eid occured in December, around Christmas, so there were a ton of sales going on and a ton of flyers in the newspapers. One night I was doing my regular newspaper flyers “exercise” and my brother who is 13 years my senior, was sitting nearby. He said “here, why don’t you circle things you like” and handed me a red marker. I circled stuff that I liked and then forgot about it and moved on with life.

When I woke up on Eid morning that year, one of the arts and crafts products that I had circled in the Michael’s paper was next to my bed. My brother had left it there. It wasn’t even gift wrapped or anything but in that moment I finally understood what Christmas morning must feel like. I was thrilled to say the least. (If you’re curious what I got for Eid that year, it was a tracing lap desk similar to something like this.)

I love the idea of giving children wrapped gifts for Eid as a response to their lack of participation in Christmas. I also very much like the Muslim tradition though of handing out money on Eid (called Eidi in some languages). Sometimes for other North American holidays, a cash gift instead of a wrapped gift can come off as as “boring” or “unthoughtful”. But I think the tradition of handing out Eid money is very charming and reminds me a little bit of trick-or-treating actually. When I was a kid, there was real anticipation of how much money we’d haul in this year similar to how on Halloween we’d anticipate how much candy we’d collect. We’d go up to different relatives or family friends at a party, wish them “Eid Mubarak!” with a big smile on our face and that was their cue to hand over a small bill. Adults were always ready for it and made sure to get lots of small bills from the bank, similar to how adults make sure to stock their homes with candy for Halloween night. Though I’d only collect money from adults at Eid parties, a friend of mine from Malawi said that Muslim children in Malawi actually go from door to door in their neighbourhood collecting Eid money which is really quite similar to trick-or-treating on Halloween. 

For my nieces and nephew, we like to do both traditions – wrapped gifts and Eid money. I might get wrapped gifts for my nieces and nephew but their uncles might hand out cash so the kids are exposed to both traditions. I feel handing out Eid money is an authentic tradition to our holidays that I’d like to keep alive so other times, I’ll make sure the gifts I get are slightly less than my budget. That way, I can give a wrapped gift and Eid money at the same time. To make the tradition of Eid money more visually appealing for kids I like to make sure I package the money in creative ways for added fun (more on creative ways to package Eid money on our homepage: http://helloholydays.com/). 

Do you feel handing out Eid money is an authentic tradition we should try to keep alive? Which tradition do you establish in your home on Eid day – wrapped gifts, handing out money, or both?

– Manal

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