The next day, everyone wakes up for the Fajr prayer before sunrise, and a couple of hours later the men don starched, smart white shalwar kameez and leave for the mosque for a congregational prayer. This prayer is one of the most intriguing ways this celebration binds us together. After the prayer everyone embraces the person next to them regardless of class, race or age. A sumptuous, simmering assortment of delicacies awaits them at home: kheer (a sort of pudding), seviyan (vermicelli), and ghulab jamun (brown sweat meats soaked in sugar syrup), just to name a few. By this time, everyone is immaculately turned out, and the round of calls commences as people visit their friends and relatives and exchange greetings, affection, and gifts. The young children, some sheepish and some bold, then find ingenious methods of procuring “Eidi” money from their elders. Some resort to outrageous flattery and attentiveness to coax the it out, while some boldly advance with outstretched hands. By the end of the day, each beaming child swaggers around nursing a bulk of notes, ready to be spent on toys, chocolates and ice cream.
Everything about this festival makes me feel engaged and elated. Perhaps it is the fact that everyone, at least for a day, is relieved of their day-to-day jobs to enjoy a nationwide holiday, and can take time out of their busy schedule to share treasured moments with their loved ones. Eid is a time for family and friends, a festival of love, affection, and unity. For a little while we all forget about the terrible things happening in the world around us. For a little while we overflow with happiness and pure joy. We have a glorious glimpse of what the world would be like if peace pervaded, and conflicts and differences like class, race, and religion ceased. That’s what I like best about Eid; it keeps me dreaming.