The Muslim holiday Ramadan has begun, and ends on July 6th this year, also begins a time of community and family; it is the custom for Muslims to invite their neighbours and friends to share their evening meal called Iftar.
I was curious to learn more about the traditions and festivals celebrated during this special month, and don’t shoot, but seems to me a lot like the month of December when families celebrate Christmas. For those of us who are parents, we don’t even have to believe in God to understand that December is a magical month for children.
Children in war-torn countries are no different, and again they are paying the price of war. Unless local humanitarian’s bring food and gifts to the families in Sana’a, Yemen, hundreds, even thousands of children are waking up every morning to no presents, no treats and no dinner, and we are talking about children.
Please visit our GoFundMe page to donate to local Yemeni charities, who will quickly turn your donations into care packages, that will be delivered by their volunteers to the dozens of families suffering in Yemen.
Along with the celebrations, Ramadan is also a time when Muslims try to reconnect with the Qur’an, and recite special Tarawih prayers in congregation. Every person, including woman and child partake of the month-long festivities and traditions, which includes a daily fast; naturally children, infirm, mentally ill, pregnant and elderly people do not have to fast.
Fasting is one of the Muslim traditions followed throughout the month of Ramadan. The belief being that desires are curbed, and one can gain understanding of how those who are less privileged may feel. The fast is also considered to increase one’s patience, closeness to God, and generosity towards others.
It is Islamic custom to celebrate Eid with a small sweet breakfast, and to give charity before Eid prayers in congregation. Many Muslims celebrate by giving gifts, wearing new clothes, and visiting friends and family.
Gathering in the eldest family member’s house
On the eve of Eid, the members of families in Hajja gather at the house of the eldest family member to spend the night there. They have breakfast together in the early morning and then go out together in large numbers—each showing off the size of their family. They have lunch, chew qat, and stay the following night at the same house.
Yemeni Eid Traditions
The people in Sana’a governorate gather in various open areas to perform the Eid prayer and wish each other “Eid Mubarak,” meaning “happy Eid.” Consequently, tribesmen gather in public spaces, usually squares, to perform traditional dances, involving Jambyas and drums. Each dancer does his best to perform well, hoping to be praised by the audience.
Where noses meet
Shaking hands and giving nose kisses when greeting others is a Socotran tradition during Eid.
One thing that Shabwa is known for during Eid is its poetry competitions. Groups of men gather in circles outdoors, rather than inside their houses, and start improvising poems. Each group attempts to outperform the other.
On the eve of Eid, families prepare henna to paint intricate designs on the hands and feet of both girls and boys. Early the next morning, children wash the henna off, enjoying artistic patterns and shapes on their skin for at least another week.
Celebrating with the ill and disabled
Following the morning Eid prayer, people go to have breakfast with a sick or persons with a disability. They hope to thereby increase the joyful experience of Eid for those whose lives are hardened by disadvantages.
Jumping over camels is a popular activity in Hodeida that dates back to Yemen’s distant past. The competition starts with a man jumping over one camel, with the number of camels increasing all the way up to five. The youth compete to show their skill and the winner is treated like a hero—Al-Zaraniq tribe is renown for its particularly skillful competitors. Camel jumping acts as entertainment during joyful and festive events like weddings and Eid.
The festival of breaking of the fast, which marks the end of Ramadan. According to tradition the angels call it the day of prize-giving because all those who fasted are rewarded by God on this day, and so it is common to hear Muslims greet each other with Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid). It falls on the first day of the new Islamic month of Shawwal and it is forbidden to fast on this day.
Please visit our GoFundMe page to donate to local Yemeni charities, who will quickly turn your donations into care packages, food and other lifesaving essentials.
References: The diverse Eid traditions of Yemen’s governorates.