Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, when families gather to pray over the graves of departed loved ones and call on friends and relatives. In addition to the religious duties, tradition dictates that families buy new clothes for children and give them cash gifts known as eidaat.
In recent years, religious occasions such as Eid, Easter or Christmas have tended to become more commercialized; with the spiritual aspect of these events overtaken by marketing spiel. Increasingly, many brands or stores seek to cash in on Eid by offering special sales or gift ideas. Gift giving has become particularly popular in the Gulf, where many luxury goods companies have a strong presence. Many jewelry stores carry necklaces and bracelets with the word “Allah” or certain Suras inscribed in gold or silver. Some cosmetics companies have begun to make a splash by touting their halal products.
According to custom, the children in the family should greet their older relatives first thing in the morning. Grandparents and often parents then distribute Eid money to each of the children under the age of 14, although the exact cut-off age can differ by a year or two. Unmarried aunts and uncles are also expected to give to their nieces and nephews. In some families, married aunts and uncles do as well.
The nice thing about giving money is that everyone in the family receives the same amount. It is not nice when one person is getting an i-Pad and another a T-shirt. Those who do choose to give gifts may want to select an item that does not detract from the religious significance of the holiday. Religious bookstores often sell books for children introducing them to the main tenets of faith in a colorful, kid-friendly way. Of course, gifts do not have to have to be religious in nature, and toys are always popular among small children.
When making house calls, it is traditional to bring sweets. Visitors may want to also bring a small gift or candies for the children of the house. The importance of gratitude cannot be overemphasized, and parents should make sure their children say thank you for any gifts, money or sweets they receive.
In Arab countries it is not very often that we make our kids write a thank you note, but we always have to say thank you. It is also appropriate on Eid to express thanks to doormen, domestic help, and anyone else who works for the family or provides services by writing a personal note of thanks and sealing it in an envelope with cash.
Those who find themselves in a comfortable financial position can also reach out to a less fortunate family by sending them a note with money, which should be given to the head of the household.
Above all, no one should avoid visiting friends and family due to financial constraints, adding that paying respect is more important than gifts or money. No gift is small if it is given with love.