Eid celeberations Emiratis
Clockwise (from top left): Adel Al Rashed, Ibrahim Al Thehli, Mohammed Al-Taniji, Fatima Al Neyadi, Saif Al Hammadi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Eid celebrations vary over time, shaped by human development. Its manifestations in the past starkly contrast with those of the present – yet the constant remains the unbridled joy accompanying the arrival of Eid.

In the UAE, this occasion is marked by adorning public squares and streets, creating an ambiance of jubilation that permeates all towns and cities.

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Each year, these destinations attract a significant number of visitors from around the globe, eager to partake in the various facets of Eid celebrations alongside citizens and residents alike.

Unique traditions

Although each country is unique in its different traditions during Eid, there are three common aspects of celebrating Eid Al-Fitr: spending the Eid days with the family, preparing delicious banquets, and exchanging gifts and sweets.

Emirati society continues to uphold its vibrant heritage, preserving its traditions and social customs.

Mohammed Al-Taniji, 55, an Emirati employee, says: “We heard stories our parents told us that about 70 years ago, during Eid celebrations, and the population of Abu Dhabi was only about 150,000 people.

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Mohammed Al-Taniji

"Today, the capital alone is witnessing the celebration of no less than 3 million people – both citizens and residents – as Abu Dhabi has witnessed a remarkable growth, with this huge number of people celebrating Eid... In the past, the Eid celebrations were simple and beautiful. It brought together all family members, family, friends and neighbours... Today, things have changed.

"Everyone has become busy with their own affairs, and the old character of the celebration no longer exists now… As for me, I plan to spend the Eid Al Fitr holidays with friends and family members.”

Family gatherings

For his part, Adel Al-Rashed, 60, an Emirati journalist said: “Customs have changed with the passage of time. But before the Eid is announced, the preparations begin for Eid programmes according to timings that no one can forget – like many images of ancient days in which the people of the Emirates used to practise their Eid rituals, customs and traditions, these are etched in the mind.

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Adel Al Rashed

"In Abu Dhabi, the celebrations begin in immediately after the Eid prayer, which is held in the prayer halls on the morning of the first day of the month of Shawwal, after which comes the happy Eid Al-Fitr, when family visits begin and the adults meet with the children in a family gathering that purifies the strength of the family, its interconnectedness, and the strong relationships of its members.”

Younger generation

Saif Al Hammadi, 20, a student at Zayed University Abu Dhabi, said his Eid day is limited to family visits on the first day. He added: “I know that the times of my parents are completely different from our time. They tell me that communication must take place through exchanging visits between family and friends.

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Saif Al Hammadi

"In our time, modern means of communication have become sufficient instead of visits. In the past, if you wanted to communicate with your friends, colleagues, and relatives, you needed continuous visits for three or four days, and you would not be able to face 30 or 40 of them, while the rest you communicated with by phone. Now, you can contact 500 people on your contacts list in seconds.

“For me, like my friends from the younger generation, I used to go to malls, beaches and Yas Island to celebrate and enjoy my holiday. On the second day, I plan to go to Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.”

Tradition and modernity

Adel Abdul Wahed, 45, a government employee, says: “I live and work in Abu Dhabi with my wife and children. Our family and relatives live in Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras Al Khaimah, so we must divide the Eid vacation so that we can visit most of the relatives, especially the elderly – such as father, mother, and older sibling.

“As for the rest of the holiday, I would divide it between visiting commercial centres and tourist places, whether in Abu Dhabi or the rest of the Emirates. In Abu Dhabi, I visit with my family and children the amazing Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, beautiful beaches and the world-famous Ferrari World theme park. For those looking for a unique blend of modernity and tradition, this is an ideal destination for tourists during the Eid holiday.”

Passion for Eid

Ibrahim Al Thehli, an Emirati media professional and a social media expert, told Gulf News: “Deeply rooted in the UAE society, the first day of Eid Al Fitr was a very special day for us. For fathers, mothers and grandfathers…this day was, and still is, one of the most important events that brings joy to the hearts of the people of the UAE.”

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Ibrahim Al Thehli

“In the past, and until today, women and girls apply henna on their hands, while children receive new clothes and small gifts, and celebrate with traditional games, singing and dancing.

“Both holidays last at least three days and begin with early morning prayers on the morning of the first day.”

He added: “The celebrations during Eid Al-Fitr vary from country to country – but always include visiting family and friends, giving presents, enjoying feasts, wearing new clothes, and visiting the graves of relatives. Through these celebrations, people show their gratitude to Allah after reflecting and fasting during Ramadan.”

On Eid day, families used to visit each other.

“People go out in the night or host dinner at home still, but the simplicity that used to make Eid dinners a joyful occasion is not witnessed anymore.

“Now, it’s more about sporting designer clothes and shoes and the number of dishes. Because, if they don’t upload their pictures on social media, how will others find out about the stupendous way they celebrated the big occasion?”

“Instagram, Snapachat and Facebook – these are the most prevalent online networking destinations where individuals demonstrate to the world what they did on Eid.

“I am not against this idea, but by becoming obsessed with posting on social websites, we somehow overlook the spirit of the occasion and forget our identity. We, the young people, are confused and distracted,” he said.

Family, community

Fatima Al Neyadi, a lawyer says: “Eid was, and still is, a good occasion for gathering with family and relatives. People gather on the streets of the city, in the region or neighbourhood, or in places of worship to exchange Eid greetings.

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“In the past, Eid had a special flavour and was an occasion of great joy that spread throughout every village and city. It was an important event in every family’s life, and they would prepare for it days and weeks in advance. Life was organised in accordance with its requirements. Everyone was experiencing the holiday atmosphere before its arrival.”

She adds: “On the day of Eid, each family visited other families. These visits were not obligatory, but out of a genuine and strong desire to be together. Sometimes, the gatherings were large and people would visit the majority, if not all, of the homes.

“This heightens the atmosphere of celebrating Eid and allows people to stay away from life’s worries and problems. This was how Eid was observed in the past. Today, we notice that every Eid differs from the one that preceded it, to the extent that Eid day has become an ordinary day for us, unlike in the past when we used to wait for it patiently.”