The Eid, a festive holiday for Tunisians
Tunis - In Tunisia, as in other Muslim countries, Eid al-Fitr is a celebration of faith and family at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Marked by the sighting of the moon, the Eid is also an occasion to enjoy food and the company of family following a month of fasting and abstaining.
Walking the streets of Tunis, it is easy to spot the preparations for the Eid as shops display new merchandise and bakeries put on special displays of the Eid sweets. As Ramadan nears its end, streets are swarming with families preparing for the Eid.
Signs of festivity and celebrations often start on the night of the 27th day of Ramadan, known as Laylat al-Qadr, a night venerated for Muslims as the day the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad. It is a night of celebrations for Tunisians as they often use it for circumcisions of young boys.
In preparation for the Eid, the traditions of Tunisian families include buying clothes and toys for children as well as preparing sweets. Children are often the most excited about the Eid as they accompany their parents to the stores.
“It is high time we started shopping for the kids. Today is the first day I go and I am trying to find something affordable. The kids love to share their toys with their friends on the day of the Eid. It is part of the celebrations,” said Najah Bakri, a secretary.
Tunisians also line up at bakeries to buy traditional sweets, including baklava and other delicacies, rather than making their own sweets at home.
“I used to make sweets at home but it became exhausting so I started buying the ready-made ones from shops,” Bakri said. “It is not the same quality but it is the only possible alternative.”
On the morning of the Eid, Tunisians gather in mosques to take part in the Eid prayer before returning home to eat the first morning meal after a month of fasting.
That first meal varies by region. In the southern town of Tozeur, people usually make ful medames, which consists of cooked beans served with olive oil and spices.
“We often cook ful medames on the Eid morning so people drink more and more water. The spices and the cumin make you thirsty so it prompts you to drink water, which is good for the body of the person who was fasting for the whole month,” said Nawress Rouissi, who is from Tozeur.
“It is also believed to help the stomach be prepared to eat in the middle of the day after being conditioned for a whole month to eat after sunset,” she said.
Other regions have different types of dishes for the Eid.
Sfax is famous for chermoula, a salty fish cooked with an onion and raisin marinade, making it both salty and sweet. The salty taste is believed to trigger water consumption deemed healthy for the body of the people who were fasting. The dish is often consumed in the morning. In the northern town of Beja, Tunisians make a pastry called hlalem, which believed to help the stomach recover from fasting habits.
The Eid is often spent visiting older relatives. Children play with their new toys and also receive a small amount of money given usually on the day of the Eid to buy toys, candy and firecrackers.
For the average Tunisian family, however, it has become harder to afford the clothes and sweets of the Eid.
“It is hard to find the right and affordable clothes for children. It is also important to have children enjoy the Eid. I make sure to include that in the budget of the month and even save some money from the salary of the month before to make ends meet during Ramadan,” Arbia Attia, a nurse, explained.