Eid: The Leg of Lamb Breakfast
Ramadan is near over and my thoughts keep traveling back to days of innocence rich with tradition in which our parents managed to recreate what somewhat resembled a Bosnian Eid. It would only be when I turned 14 and actually was in Bosnia for that year that I realized that are parents had managed to preserve something wonderful for us.
If the aroma of lamb, Turkish coffee and baklava were all in the air at 5 o’clock in the morning at my parents house 25 years ago, you knew it was Eid. It is the same memory every year, going downstairs to find my dad in his suit sipping his Turkish coffee, my mother in her silk housedress, hair in rollers under a scarf at the table rearranging the baklava onto a crystal platter.
The fighting with my siblings over the bathroom, the rush to get ready and the longest ten-minute ride one could ever take. That was Eid morning.
We were a small community back then, mostly Bosnians attended the mosque, not only was it the Islamic Cultural Center, but it was home to the Bosnian American Cultural Association. Unlike the other Muslim organizations we opted out of the annual McCormick Eid prayer and prayed Eid in our own mosque.
The parking lot was full of people shaking hands, saying “Bayram-Mubarak-Olsun” and “Allah-Rasyollah”, hugs and the mwa mwa’s that ended the whole Eid well wishes. It was also at this time that my siblings and I would be told “Come get me later”. The parents went into the Mosque to pray and us children stayed outside, mostly not to be heard so as not to be the one being spanked for being the one being heard during prayer. However, while we were out there we were also pacing, sending in spies to see if the adults were done praying yet and making bets as to who would be the big winner this year.
“They’re done!” would be heard and shrieks and screams followed by the annual stampede at getting down the stairs as soon as possible would commence. Having to dodge your parents before they could grab you for running and slow you down in your “Bayram Mubaraks!” The race was on and if you were slow, they might run out.
Bayram Mubaraks would commence and I was under strict orders to show my respects to my aunts and uncles first. This always slowed me down as they always had something to talk about, but on the other hand, they were also the ones that passed out the 5-dollar bills, sometimes ten-dollar bills. I’d look around the room and see the other kids going from person to person collecting their singles, with the occasional gutsy child holding out their hand for the money instead of offering their hand to shake hands with the adult. All of the parents found this cute that these children did this, including my own parents, but god-forbid if I were to act in this manner, not that I ever could anyway.
I usually had spent so much time with family that by the time I got to the rest of the people they would be out of money. I still made my rounds and paid my respects to each and every adult, avoiding my dad as much as possible who was always joking around that I should let him hold onto my money.
Eventually we’d go home with a procession of cars following us back home for the traditional Eid lunch, it was probably breakfast now that I think of it in which my mother would serve leg of lamb and potatoes, a typical dinner for breakfast.
The house would be bustling with activities. My mothers face all lit up, laughing, greeting her guests wishing them Bayram Mubareks. My dad was always trying to get passed the guests collecting at the doorway to get into the house, as if he had something important to do. The children forgoing the house and setting up base in the backyard with Sakib and Rifet somewhere alongside the garage lighting matches trying to set something on fire.
We spent most of the day outdoors playing Johnny Tackle, freeze tag, hine go seek (hide and seek) making fun of each other and daring each other to do things. Several times during the day I’d have to go collect the city kids that had wandered off to play on the neighbors swing set. “No, it is not a park, it is someone’s house and they own the swing set.” They just never believed me!
I’d try to use the bathroom as little as possible so that my mother wouldn’t see me. If I was seen, I was given some sort of “let me show off what a good little girl you are” task. Usually it was an empty crystal bowl that I would have to spend some quality time trying to arrange fruit in so that she could say that I did it all myself. Unfortunately, it also required placing the fruit bowl on the table and then having to ask if anyone wanted anything to drink. Always, always, always someone would ask for a glass of water.
Eventually most of the guests would leave and my father would drop me and my cousin off at Toys R Us to spend the money we had collected that day, which was usually somewhere between $30.00 and $50.00.
To this day, I can’t remember what I bought with that money, but I remember the way the house would smell that day. I remember all of the laughing and the sense of community and the friendships, the family. Today the Bosnian community has grown astronomically due to the refugees that had flocked to the United States during the war. No longer are Eid prayers held in the mosque. Eid prayers are now held in a banquet hall with 2 or 3 prayers held in the morning to accommodate, if I remember correctly, 15,000 men. The women and children are encouraged to not go, as the venue is just not big enough for everyone.
For my children, Eid is something different. All three are girls, so they do not pray and they do not go to the banquet hall. We spend most of the day in the car taking them from great-grandma’s house (husband’s grandmother) to grandma’s house (my mother’s house). It is a day only for immediate family and the end of the day is marked with a trip to Toy’s R Us, where we don’t even let them spend all of their money, nor do we let them buy what they want. I am so sad that they aren’t able to experience the Eids that I experienced as a child. Even though they are developing their own memories and they can’t be too bad as they spend 2 months looking forward to Eid, I just wish that I could give them somehow an Eid that more resembled what I had, traditions that they could pass down to their kids. I think I will have to work on this this Eid, maybe I will whip up a leg of lamb for breakfast.