Holiday Weekend

Posted: November 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Culture, South Asia | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

If there’s one thing I really regret about the timing of this trip, it’s that it overlaps with some of my favorite American holidays. This weekend, I found myself pining for my aunt Susan’s Thanksgiving dinner, and in particular, the hot fruit stew she serves over turkey in lieu of cranberry sauce, the crumbly buttery goodness of her stuffing and the addictive sugar high of her almond tarts. One important thing about Thanksgiving, however, I managed to salvage, even though I’m thousands of miles away from the nearest roast turkey dinner: the madness of family gatherings.

See, I’m here in Pakistan squatting at the homes of various relatives, and in a strange convergence of the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, it’s a holiday weekend here too. Yesterday and today, Muslims commemorated the story of Abraham, the story that binds Islam to Judaism and Christianity, even though the three faiths differ over the details. I’ve always been a bit creeped out by Abraham, and by the notion of a God who would ask such a sacrifice of His followers. [As prophets go, I have a soft spot for Moses, who threw temper tantrums, made jokes and seemed generally more prone to human weakness. Also, Charlton Heston is cool.]

In any case, here’s how Eid celebrations work: you wake up, eat breakfast and proceed around town ‘calling on’ relatives. At each house, you need to drink at least one cup of tea and eat at least one piece of something sweet. You continue this process all day, sometimes over 5 or 6 homes, until everyone converges on one home for a massive, late meal. On day three, you can hardly move for fullness. What I don’t understand about this process is that everyone seems to be out ‘calling,’ yet whereever you call, at least one family member is home. Commenters, please explain how my superhuman relatives can be two places at once.

Growing up in New York in my barely practicing family, we didn’t bother with such formalities. Eid was a good excuse to stay home from school and have a simple dinner with close family and friends. It was also an excellent opportunity to pad one’s wallet, as children are supposed to recieve cash instead of gifts from adults. [Note: my own relatives in New York stopped paying me when I started earning my own money from summer jobs; but here, I’ve been told by some aunties that I count as a child until I get married. Seems a strange incentive system in a society that also puts pressure on girls to marry young…] Given that lackadaisical upbringing, it’s been bizarre and sometimes uncomfortable to experience Eid in the Islamic Republic where people take Abraham’s sacrifice so seriously they run out to kill a goat themselves. I like mutton as much as the next girl, but this tradition is a little bit mad, and wholly inhumane.

All in all, however, it’s been comforting to spend a holiday weekend getting pinched, teased and overfed by nosy aunts and uncles and know that my friends and family in New York are doing more or less the same thing. Happy Holidays to all, and please, enjoy some leftover pumpkin pie on my behalf.

One Comment on “Holiday Weekend”

  1. 1 rafigagum said at 3:12 pm on November 30th, 2009:

    aw, we all missed you too but i'm glad the calendars matched and it was sweets all around, i always wondered myself how the "calling" worked especially since there were no cell phones when we did it

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