Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Festivals

Happy Diwali, to all my Hindu friends and bloggers out there! I was querying the two Hindu people I know about the significance of Diwali and they couldn’t remember the exact story or the related god’s name, which I found sort of funny.
I guess us poor Catholics were force fed all the mythology/terminology every Saturday at Catechism, so that there was never any danger of us forgetting. I did a quick skim through Google (what did I ever do before Google? It’s like a high tech version of those tell me why books) and Diwali, known as the festival of lights, is a celebration of the return of Lord Ram from fourteen years of exile after he kills a demon.
For Sikhs, Diwali is a celebration of Sri Guru Hargobind Ji's release from Gwalior jail. Upon the notice of his release, the Guru informed the Mughal emperor that he would not leave the prison unless the other 52, unjustly imprisoned individuals were also set free. In response, the emperor told the Guru that he could take as many people out of the jail as could hold on to his robes. A robe with 52 threads attached to it was then made upon the Guru's request. Sri Guru Hargobind Ji wore the robe and helped free 52 unjustly imprisoned non-Muslim rulers. (This part is courtesy of Wikipediea.)

My fondest memories of Diwali are from when I lived in Dubai. Dubai is so small and multicultural that you go to celebrate everyone’s feasts and festivals, and in more meaningful ways, that say the city of Toronto’s push to have a festival every weekend of summer. Diwali in Dubai consisted of momentous fireworks lighting up the night sky, elaborate and colorful clothes always magically trimmed in gold and plump juicy gelabis…..nothing says feast like a golden hot gelabi. Goodness my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Next a Very Happy Eid to all my Muslim friends and bloggers. I am starting to sound like that girl who started every sentence with ….in band camp … In dubai, Eid is a festival like no other. The entire city is lit up, from bridges, to malls, to lamp posts that line the street. A myraid of colors reflect onto the abras. It is a beautiful sight. I shudder to think of the electricity bills. The period before Eid is called Ramadan where devotees abstain from eating, drinking and all illicit activities (wink wink) from sunrise to sunset. At sunset however they feast. I must observe that despite the twelve hours of self sacrifice I always found that there was plenty of over eating once the fast was broken. In Dubai a huge cannon marks the end of fasting. Ramdan is not a fun time to visit Dubai since your not allowed to eat in public till sunset, and most of the stores and clubs are closed.

The most interesting practice of Eid is the practice of explicit acts of generosity by the upper class. Sheikhs take time to hear the pleas of the poorer Islamic population and grant them ‘favours.’ For instance, Ahemd, could theoretically go up to the Sheikh and ask him for money to clear his loan, and boom, it would be granted. The whole process is very hush.

Lower Sheiks do the same. My dad used to work for some very wealthy Sheiks and each Eid, we the lucky children would receive five hundred dirhams (About two hundred Canadian dollars) plus huge pots of Biryanni. (Do note that I myself only ever saw about five dirhams from the bounty, since I was told by the powers of be, the rest of the money was deposited into a savings account....)
Another tradition is sacrificing a goat for Eid. Muslim families would buy a goat at the start of Ramadan and fatten it up, before sacrificing it for Eid. As a kid it never occurred to me this may be an inhumane practice. We played with goats, even named them, yet it never occurred to us to be sad about their impending demise.
So those are two of my 'when I was in Dubai' stories....I am going to get to celebrate Diwali this year, and Ill try and post pics of the cute outfit i get to wear and the yummy food!


Island Spice said...

Shubh Divali!! I am so excited.. I am off to enjoy!

Marika said...

Sounds fantastic! Make sure you post some piccies.

Belladona Smiles said...

CP - You've clumped the 'Eid's' into one.

Muslims celebrate two distinct Eid's.

One is called Eid ul-Fitr that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The other is Eid ul-Adha which is celebrated to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God and this is where the Goat is sacraficed.

Crankyputz said...

Belladona: Thank you Smart ass, but they used to sacrifice the goat on both Eids in DXB, at least in Karma, (Note to other bloggers Belladona, grew up with me, so I get to be snotty with her!)

Belladona Smiles said...

Karama Goat Slayers!!!