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Eid in Yemen (Lastpage).

The occasion of Eid is a chance to highlight the cultural, social and religious significance of the celebration, especially in Yemen.

Muslims celebrate two main events each year, namely Eftar and Arafat Eid. They are also called Al-Eid Al-Sagheer (small Eid) and Al-Eid Al-Kabeer (big Eid) respectively. Although each one has its own religious significance, they are celebrated by Yemenis, like all Islamic and Arab nations, with a sense of happiness as they carry out the numerous customs which mark the occasion.

A few days before Eid, families start shopping. During these days, markets are crowded as people scramble to buy items which are needed for the celebrations such as clothes, shoes, special types of sweets, cakes and gifts.

It is a custom for most people to wear new clothes for the occasion. Yemenis start buying new clothes for the family a couple of days before Eid, paying special attention to their children.

Children, in particular, understand nothing of the religious or social significance of Eid, but celebrate it by all means. For them, Eid means new clothes, sweets, gifts, toys and games. Aseel, a seven-year old, said: "When I hear that Eid is coming, the first thing I think about is having new clothes for this occasion." For this child, thus, Eid is nothing more than receiving new clothes of which he feels proud, especially when he meets other children his age.

Fathers usually consider buying new clothes to be a duty not only for their own children, but also for the children of relatives, neighbors, friends and other poor people. It is in Eid that we think about the children of the poor. Yemenis provide unfortunate families with new clothes or money to go shopping for Eid. Adel, a father of eight children, said: "I cannot only buy clothes for my children when I know that some of my relatives, neighbors or friends cannot afford to provide for theirs."

Particularly on Eid day, the multicultural background of Yemenis is apparent through the various types of dress they wear. From ma'waz, fotah, qamis -all with or without jambia- to the different models of gulf thobs, formal suits or badlat and casual clothes, Yemenis' attire on Eid is varied. Unlike other countries such as Saudi Arabia where almost everybody wears the Arab thob, Yemenis do not follow a particular tradition in dressing. Sometimes, a Yemeni will wear a range of different outfits. Ali, a young Yemeni, said that "I like to wear thob on Eid day, but I also wear casual and, sometimes, formal clothes." Such a variety of clothes reflects the cultural diversity to which Yemenis have been exposed to through interaction with foreigners in Yemen and abroad.

Another great custom in Eid is giving sweets to visitors and family members. Just before Eid, sweets, clothes, are sold in huge quantities. Ahmed Al-Sanani, owner of sweets shop, said: "I sell as many sweets in Eid as I sell in a whole year".

Children traditionally visit relatives, neighbors and friends as part of Salam Al-Eid, which means to shake hands and congratulate them on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. Nowadays, they are encouraged to do this for sweets and sometimes gifts or money, which is known as Asb Al-Eid in Sana'a and as Al-Uadah in cities like Taiz and Ibb.

Kamal, a Yemeni child, regarded the occasion as the best to collect sweets, gifts and money. Shy, he confesses that "Eid is the day on which I feel that people love and deal mercifully with us". Yemenis pay special attention to children in Eid, sometimes giving them money to buy games and toys.

Fahd, father of four children, stated: "I feel all children are my sons and daughters, and, although I am not rich, I try as much as possible to offer children of relatives, neighbors and friends whatever I can to make them happy."

During Eid, cakes and cookies are also baked at home for the family, for visitors or even to swap with friends and neighbors to evaluate each other's skill. Sweets, cakes and cookies are an essential part of Eid in Yemen, bringing families together on the occasion.

Eid is an occasion to visit relatives, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. These visits form a custom which is religiously and socially encouraged. Children visit the homes of relatives, neighbors and friends either alone or with an elder brother or their father. Women also visit each other to exchange congratulations and discuss personal affairs. For them, Eid is a chance to see friends and relatives who live far away. Men's visits to each other take place either as quick social calls or as the more common qat chewing sessions.

It is distinctive of Yemeni custom that husbands visit their wives' home during Eid. A Yemeni usually takes his wife and children to visit his mother and father-in-law. The family typically brings gifts to the grandparents and spends a day with them. Mohammed Ali, a married Yemeni, explained: "At least one day must be dedicated to visiting my wife's home, otherwise offence will be taken."

Other distinctively Yemeni practices during Eid include traveling around the country and attending weddings, but the most important have been highlighted here. These traditions have been transmitted from one generation to another as part of Yemeni cultural framework....

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Date:Apr 12, 2009
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