NAT 220502 Eid Blue Mosque CE029-1651486537217
People greet each other at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Dubai on Eid Al Fitr, after the morning prayers today. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi/Dubai: The exchange of greetings is a vital part of Eid, and one of the primary ways in which people share their joy on the occasion.

The exchange begins soon after the after the announcement of the moon-sighting on the evening of the last iftar for Ramadan.

This customary practise has, however, changed inextricably over the years. While visiting one another is still one of the most preferred ways to exchange greetings, many other options have cropped up over the years with the advent of technology. Evolving from greeting cards sent through traditional mail to calls over land phones, the exchange of greetings has been completely transformed by the arrival of smartphones.

Ibrahim Al Zouli

“In the past, our fathers and grandfathers would visit one another and share letters with family members who lived abroad. Telegram was also an option to greet important family members whom one could not visit. But then, land phones became common and allowed us to make these greetings even more intimate,” Ibrahim Al Zouli, 60, an Emirati businessman and media executive, told Gulf News.

Going digital

With email becoming widely used, people began exchanging electronic greetings over email and through dedicated greeting card websites.

“Over time, we also adopted SMS greetings as another convenient alternative, but I remember we would often have to stick to the character limit. Then came Blackberry and BBM!” Al Zouli remembered.

Convenience of social media

Today, social media has become the primary medium of exchange of Eid greetings, with even UAE leaders taking to Twitter and Instagram to felicitate residents.

“WhatsApp makes it very easy to make sure you reach everyone on Eid, But I must say that it is also more impersonal than ever before. This is why I make it a point to personally call all close friends and family members whom I cannot personally visit over Eid,” Al Zouli said.

Extra touch

“Hearing someone’s voice, which is now easier with video conferencing, certainly adds that extra touch to a greeting and I advise our youth to hold strong these valuable traditions,” he added.

Tabassum Kazi

Tabassum Kazi, 44, an academic supervisor from India, said she and her family also preferred to make house calls over Eid. “We have had to resort to electronic greetings during the last two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, we are happy to be visiting our loved ones again. Even my children say it is much lovelier to meet people instead of just sending them a message,” she said.

Best-enjoyed personally

Ayesha Kouwatly

Lebanese expatriate Ayesha Kouwatly, who works as a consultant in Dubai, said the medium of exchange depends on where the recipient lives. “It really depends on whether the person celebrating Eid has his or her family living close to him or her. In Dubai, some people don’t have their families staying with them. So, naturally, the greeting is shared electronically, which is definitely not the way Eid is celebrated,” she explained. “Eid Al Fitr is a joyous celebration — one that is best enjoyed with loved ones. But I do feel that celebrations have mellowed down since the pandemic,” Kouwatly added.

Relevant option

For Omar Elhaddad, 35, a sales manager, the digital option for exchanging greetings is also relevant. “With the evolution of technology and video calling platforms, Eid greetings have gone digital. This way, we are able to greet families and friends even if we are not able to physically be there,” he said.

Omar Elhaddad

“I also feel that Eid greetings have changed in the past three years, since the pandemic hit the world. Earlier, we would have big gatherings with families and friends to share greetings, food, gifts, etc. Now, people are more into e-greetings and video calls. Luckily, with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the Eid spirit is coming back to normal,” Elhaddad said.

Precautionary measures

In its latest announcement, the National Crisis, Emergencies and Disaster Management Authority recommended that residents need to continue to physically distance themselves and wear facemasks when visiting vulnerable individuals.

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“We urge the public to use electronic alternatives to distribute cash bonuses and gifts, limit celebrations to immediate family members and relatives, as well as avoid physical greetings [wherever possible],” said Dr Taher Al Amiri, official spokesperson for NCEMA.