Eid starts with a special prayer called Al-Mashhad, which is performed either at an outdoor prayer ground or a mosque. Many Muslims dress in their finest clothes, usually newly bought or tailored especially for Eid.
“Al-Mashhad is a prayer preformed to ask Allah to accept our Ramadan fasting and thank him for Eid. Muslims usually go in big groups to perform the prayer and bring their children along with them,” said Ahmed Badr, 37-year-old vendor. “Men and women bathe, wear new clothes and then put on perfume so that they would look their best when standing between Allah’s hands.”
Days before Eid, women go to the malls and start shopping for Eid outfits. “We have to find the perfect Eid outfit every year. It’s a challenging process because every woman wants to look her best,” said Raneem Jazzar, a 21-year-old college student. “We could spend hours and hours strolling around shops and bazaars and never give up until we find the right Eid dress because we have to wear something new in our gatherings,” she added.
Muslims celebrate a day after Ramadan by having a breakfast gathering with close family members. “After coming back from the mosque we always gather in my grandfather’s house where all the family attend the breakfast feast,” said Hanan Mohammed a 47-year-old stay-at-home mother. “Certain dishes are made for this special day, dishes that are only cooked for Eid breakfast like debyaza (apricot pudding), halawa turki or Turkish sweet (traditional Turkish pudding) and of course the Ta’teema (a selection of cheese, butter, jam and different kinds of cooked eggs),” she added.
Some of those dishes are prepared three days before Eid because it takes time to prepare them. “In the last days of Ramadan, debyaza and halawa turki are prepared because they need time to be cooked and cool down. We then keep them in the fridge until it’s time to serve them,” said Hanan.
Hours after breakfast, gathering locals start greeting each other by passing by neighbors and family members’ houses to wish them a happy Eid. “We go around knocking on one door after the other to greet families and friends and celebrate Eid with them,” said Um Al-Saad Barazanji, a 55-year-old stay-at-home mother. “The doors are always open to make it easy for people to help themselves in. When no one is at home, visitors can find a table by the door with paper and pens, a candy box and a set of perfumes. That way, visitors can greet the house owners on paper, take a piece of candy and spray on perfume before going to the next house,” she added.
Chocolate has become essential in every house during Eid. “This is a new tradition that came along with the new generation. We used to offer our guests local and traditional sweets but children of the new generation hate those low sugar sweets so we started offering chocolate to everyone,” said Aminah Sadeg, a 70-year- old stay-at-home mother. “Every house now has to have an assorted plate or basket that carries different kinds of chocolate to match all tastes.”
Chocolate shops consider Eid the highest season of the year according to Salwa Radwan, owner of Chocolate Corner in Jeddah. “We start receiving orders from the beginning of Ramadan and we start working on them on the spot so that we are able to deliver them at the end of the month. We start ordering from our factory and work on the arrangements to make special and festive chocolate plates,” she said. “Ramadan has always been the highest season for our shop where we receive many orders daily during this holy month.
Traditions change from one generation to another, but certain things never change as Saudis try to keep a little culture in their major celebrations. “Even if we switched local sweets with chocolates, we will always keep the Arabic coffee present,” Sadeg said. “You can always count on Arabic coffee and dates being served as we sometimes prepare more than two coffee pots a day because people come and go to our house and we like to serve them Arabic coffee and chocolate.”
“We also perfume our houses with Oud (local cologne) and Bakhoor (scented bricks or woodchips that are burned in incense burners to perfume the house with a thick smoke) which makes the house smells good and ready for visitors,” said Sadeg.
Older people and the head of the family give away Eidiyah (Money gift) to children as a gift for Eid. “Eid is like Christmas, we give children toys and money as a way to thank them for fasting Ramadan and encourage them to fast the next year and the one after,” said Barazanji.
Eid feast is the biggest day to celebrate this holiday and it’s usually on the second or third day of Eid. “The biggest house in the family usually hosts a big lunch and sometimes dinner. They cook fresh lamb and other special Eid dishes,” added Barazanji. “Of course, it’s different from one region to another according to the traditions that the people inherit from their families.”
According to Barazanji, families later have the option to either travel or rent a house and spend the rest of Eid there. “We usually go to Al-Madinah and visit other family members, but when we don’t, we spend our time in a vacation house where we swim, barbecue and enjoy or time there together,” she said.