Finally after 29 days of fasting Muslims across the world are rejoicing in celebration for Eid Al Fitr. Eid Al Fitr is commonly referred to as “feast of breaking fast” which in most cases everyone gorges themselves in ethnic delicacies but we’ll get to that later. Eid also derives from the literal translation of holiday in English. So basically Muslims are commemorating their exhausting efforts of fasting during the boiling NYC heat that passed.
I for one can say that fasting was difficult this year but on the bright side Eid was plentiful. Eid Al Fitr is one of two Islamic holidays on the Islamic calendar but this particular Eid will immediately follow the last day of Ramadan. Eid is not only a time to celebrate but to give thanks to our creator. The beginning of the festivities include early morning prayer which normally is held at all mosques across the five boroughs.
I haven’t slept well for the past few weeks therefore waking up at 6AM was both sweet and sour. The good would be the brotherly gathering ringing in good hope at my local mosque although my eyes are bloodshot red. In my case, the local mosque is in downtown, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn mosque resembles a multi-family house which blends in with the remainder residential neighborhood. The mosque is not relatively old but still has a new carpet scent.
As most mosques woman sat separate from the men and Brooklyn was no exception. The mosques attendees were dressed to the nines (well most) in modest but semi trendy clothing. There was a good mix of cultures within the congregation including Arab and south east Asians. A vast majority of the attendees at this mosque were from Yemen however. My family would normally go to this mosque due to its proximity and cultural similarity. Upon entrance to the mosque a gentleman passed out a small white sheet of paper consisting hymns. Reciting words of praise repeatedly over again is the norm at Islamic conjunctions. Everyone gathered and hymned for hours until prayer began.
Eid prayer consists of two cycles or rakat that slightly differ from standard daily prayers. The Imam leading the prayer will pronounce the takbir which is a phrase recited a total of twelve times between the two cycles or rakat. Today the Imam announced to the congregation several times to pay Zakat prior to making prayer. Zakat means charity and can be given in a variety of ways but this form was monetary.
In addition to zakat; the imam including volunteers passed collection plate for the mosque. I already paid zakat the day prior to arrival and passed the collection plate along. It’s 2013 and I only carry plastic instead of paper in my wallet. Finally we prayed after an enormous amount of people arrived leaving us to feel like a cramped sardine can. Regardless, listening to the imam recite during prayer was an enlightenment. The imam’s voice immersed through my ears angelically. After prayer, the Imam would normally give a speech communicating about our religious values reminding us to remain steadfast through the year. The imam’s speech completed and the congregation emptied the mosque immediately.
Going to the mosque for Eid prayer is not only part of religion but also culture tradition. Now that prayer is over we can begin the feast festivities. Immediately after prayer my family prepared a large breakfast consisting of American, Arabic & most importantly Yemeni cuisine items. Some of the plate’s made for breakfast were eggs, foul, sabaya and fresh Yemeni Coffee. Foul is a popular dish consisting of a sauteed/mashed Fava Beans and is popular in most Arab nations. Foul is similar to a meatless chili but without the smokey Texan flavor. Also Sabaya is served along side the eggs and foul. Sabaya means girl in english and the name originates as the plate resembles a pregnant woman’s womb when cooked. Sabaya is a multi layered bread which has some consistency of a pastry puff but not quite. It is more or less more similar to a croissant if anything. The bread is topped with a light honey drizzle when served.
After breakfast I presented with my immediate family members with gifts including but not limited to clothes, jewelry, gift cards and cash. Most people prefer receiving cash over anything including myself. Breakfast is completed and the women of the house start preparing for dinner. Relatives will be arriving throughout the day to wish us a happy holiday and will also expect a hot meal of course. Thankfully I went shopping for lamb the day before. Chocolate candies are placed in small plates all over the home for passerby’s to munch on through out the day. I usually find my self sitting next to a bowl and trying each different type of chocolate or hard candy.
Eventually the entire house is filled with guests some of which are unexpected but greeted nonetheless with much respect regardless. This is a time to join mend relationships and make stronger ties with one another. Food is the past way to bring people together and of course make them feel good. Today a roast lamb was served over a bed of basmati rich. Side dishes were plentiful including pasta, salad, hummus and chicken kabob. Similar to the seating arrangement at the mosque; men and women sat separate from one another. We rejoiced with the consensual feeling togetherness through the abundance of dinner.
Dinner was enormous but that’s not the end. A large silver plate was now served consisting of ma’moul, baklava, cake, and cookies. Ma’moul is basically a pecan sandy or a cookie stuffed with dates. The various ingredients available for Ma’moul make it unique and on top of my list of favorite desserts. Baklava is a famous Lebanese/Greek item that consists of filo dough with crushed nuts layered in between.
The rest of the day goes by slowly as family members get together and drink tea over small talk. Conversation in the Arab community most often not seems to always start with business or politics. A gathering cannot end unless an debate erupts between strong minded individuals who believe their opinions will change the world. My favorite part of conversation is remembrance of past Eids we shared with one another. The years past but the memories never fade and Eid events are much favorable.
Eid Mubarak and Kol Sana Tayib.