Over the years I have been asked many questions about Eid or Labarang. These questions are usually from non-muslim friends, colleagues and sometimes, from muslims too, who are not from Cape Town and wonder whether we do things differently.
Now and again, before I am asked a question, I sense hesitation. I sense that they fear they may come across as ignorant or offensive. How else are you supposed to learn if not by asking questions?
So, here’s my typical Cape Town Eid
Voice of the Cape or Radio 786 is playing as a backtrack and everyone is listening intently, wondering, will they see the moon?
The kitchen is filled with steam and smells of cooked spices.
“Shameez, are you bringing dessert?”
“Layla, fetch the danya and Tasneem, check with your dad who is all coming tomorrow”
As if choreographed, we move around each other, each needing to occupy the same space, without taking away from what the other person needs. Cooking and cleaning in silence with the excitement building. Will it be Eid tomorrow? Have we got everything ready?
“Guys, the moon has been sighted, Eid will be tomorrow, Insha ALLAH” my dad announces, seconds before the radio, because he checked Twitter, “I am going to go and help Nakhilstan”
Smiles break out across the room, not because we were afraid to fast another day, but because it was EID the next day.
“Okay, girls, get out of my kitchen, the real cooking starts now”, my mother announces.
I hug and kiss her and promise that I will be there early the next morning to help.
Bright and early we’re up, showered and wearing salah robes. Mikaeel is rushing me, “Wife, your dad is going to be waiting for me in his car with the car idling already!”
I grab my Eid clothes and the ingredients for the dessert and we’re off.
While the men attend Mosque for Eid prayers, the sisters are sleeping and my mother is busy making last minute touches to the pie before putting it in the oven. She keeps an eye on the pot of spiced tea brewing.
I know this dance. We do it every year, twice. I start filling bowls with sweets, chocolate covered peanuts and raisins. I setup the platters with biscuits, cakes and hertzoggies.
We take turns to get ready, sharing one hair dryer between four women is really asking a lot from the hair dryer.
“I have long hair, it takes a long time!”
“Then go and do it in your own room, I need to use the mirror!”
Face done, clothes ironed, and dessert setting in the fridge, my father and husband come back home, smiles spread across their faces as they know what awaits them.
My father walks right by us and fetches the pie from the oven, the pie he looks forward to every year. It’s perfectly golden and our mouths drool just thinking about it. Mince pie for breakfast is a tradition in our household and many other Muslim families in Cape Town. Heart burn is fictional, of course.
We excitedly chat about everything, as if we haven’t seen each other in years, as if we hadn’t seen each other just the previous night.
My husband looks at me, he wants another piece of pie, but is unsure whether it’s the right choice.
“Up to you, babes, the more you eat now, the less space you’ll have for lunch”
Knock, knock, knock
“EID MUBARAK” shouts the neighbour’s daughter.
“Eid Mubarak” we all reply and my dad pulls out a money clip stacked with R10 and R20 notes. He hands her some money. He withdrew cash to be prepared. It’s an Eid tradition to give kids money on Eid. Some people call it Eidee.
“Shukran!” she shouts and adds it to the little bag she’s carrying around, but before she runs off, my mother invites her and her family in for some pie and spiced tea. She’s wearing a pretty dress. We compliment her and she looks pleased.
The door is knocked on a few more times and my mother decides to just leave it open. Everyone is happy, and everyone is invited inside for some pie, biscuits, sweets and cash money for their dressed up children.
I’m lying across the couch, shoes kicked off, recovering from the pie. It takes me all morning to recover, just in time for lunch.
Everyone arrives all at once, and we realise that stockings were not a good idea as we need to make salah. We undo all the mornings work, only to redo it immediately afterwards.
The smell of food fills the air as we tuck into our first lunch in thirty days. It’s a feast fit for a king, a queen and the entire village. Some of us haven’t seen each other since the last Eid.
I kick off my shoes again, regretting the choice of heels over flats.
People come and go, family, family friends, neighbours and just about everyone you have ever known, comes to visit, and if they don’t, you visit them.
The night is spent at my aunt’s house with my mother’s family.
It’s weird at first, because we all expect to see my grandmother, but she’s not around anymore.
We socialise knowing she’d be happy that her seven children with her 20+ grandchildren and her 10+ great grandchildren still get together and share food, stories and well wishes.
At the end of the night, I am stuffed. Children are sitting in the corners, counting all the money they have been given while their parents attempt to get them to put their shoes back on.
I go from hero to zero in less than a second, pantyhose peeled off and pyjamas thrown on and then we fight over who should make a cup of tea and eventually leave it to chance.
I pick tails.
I giggle, point and jump into bed. He comes back to the bedroom, two cups of tea in hand, we sip it quietly, reviewing the day in our minds, the food we ate, the people we saw and most importantly how Ramadaan has finished. All that’s left to do is look forward to the next one.
Is your Eid any different?
Shameez, a liker of pie.