Tag Archives: Eid

Eidee – Persian New Year

Description of Informant

PK (79) is a small, frail woman with dyed blonde hair and piercing eyes. PK was born and raised in Abadan, Iran in an “Oil Company Family.” OCFs were families whose primary income came from the large British oil company in Iran. They were well compensated and taken care of, living in western-style homes in protected communities. Many OCFs were secular or subscribed to a western religion in favor of Islam. PK immigrated to England in 1976 before coming to America (California) in 1978.

— 

Context of Interview

The informant, PK, is cooking a traditional Persian stew (khoresh) while describing the custom to the collector, BK, her grandson. Text spoken in Farsi is translated and italicized.

Interview

PK: Everybody goes to “Eideedani” [visiting people on new year’s day]. But older people… sit at home. The younger people go to see older people. When I went, for instance, to see my parents… if my house was separate, first I have to go to their house, collect my “idee [gift for the new year], then they would come to my house. Even among friends, whoever is older waits at home, and all your friends— now those days there was no such thing as phones— *coughs* they’d get up and see each other. If they were home, they were, if they weren’t, then no big deal. You’d just go again later. 

PK: Then, that same day at home, the father *coughs* — for the kids—  would put paper money inside a Qur’an… inside the Qur’an they’d put money. It was not a gift like that. To be fair I don’t know about these days. Anyway, they’d put money in the Qur’an, and when the new year began, among the members of the household, the father would take money out from the Qur’an and— depending on your age— he’d give you some money. Whether it was 5 dollars [Note: PK mistakenly uses USD, as opposed to Toman], for example, or for the older ones 10 dollars— that was a lot of money! With one penny you could buy a whole bunch, where I was. Today 1 USD is 24,000 Rial. 24,000! So their money doesn’t have any value at all. Okay?

PK: Then, for instance, they’d give out 5 dollars, 10 dollars… as the years would go by and people got older and things changed, this money became 100 dollars. If you had married and gotten older, they’d give you some coins, you know? It was this way. With the times, some things have changed. Then, everyone would go “Eideedani.” The young ones would visit the old ones. You know? These days it’s the same except people call.

BK: Is “Eidee” always money?

PK: In Iran they’d give money. When we got older, they’d give us gold coins. For instance, when we were younger— you know the families… it depends on their income. Perhaps they’d give you a quarter “Pahlavi” [Note: a Pahlavi is a coin administered under the Pahlavi monarchy.], perhaps it will be half coin, perhaps it will be a whole coin. You know, like one cent, ten cents, five cents, like that

BK: And this money— you’d spend it? Or save it?

PK: Spend it! We’d go have fun with it. We’d go out and buy things. When we were kids we’d go have fun with it.

BK: You know what’s different? I always received “Eidee” as a 2-dollar bill. And we’d never spend it! I’ve collected them through the years, but I’ve never felt like they could be spent. Would you spend the gold coins too?

PK: No, the gold coins? That’s… money, you know? That’s, umm… it depends later on. We’d get ahold of these coins— today you can’t even buy them! I put a whole bunch aside for you. The best ones I gave to your mother [for her wedding]. Big round good ones. Like gold coins of coronation… the king… when they put the crown on his head. I have ones from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth too but it’s silver. I kept it for you. 

BK: Ah, when they’re coronated, they mint coins for the occasion.

PK: Yes. The silver were from England. But the gold were from Iran. *coughs* But they’d give gold, you know? And people would keep the gold. And women, imagine when they’d have too much gold, imagine you have a whole bunch of… umm quarter coins, you go to the goldsmith and have it made into a bracelet. Or a necklace, for instance, something that is larger. And I’d keep the rest.

BK: So if it was paper money or normal, day-to-day currency you’d spend it. But if it was gold you kept it.

Collector’s Reflection

The term Eideedani is a combination of two words: Eidee and deedani. Eidee, which we have established as meaning “a gift for/on Persian New Year” is derived from the name of the holiday: Eid, or Aid. Deedan, which literally means “looking,” is the Farsi term for visiting others. As PK mentioned, with the advent of technology, and the increasing size of the Iranian diaspora, physically visiting people for holidays/new year is practiced less. Instead, you make a phone call or send an email/text message. It is still essential that the young reach out to the old first. Not doing so, especially to a parent or grandparent, is a black mark on one’s reputation.

Many of the customs associated with Persian New Year predate Islam’s prevalence in the formerly Zoroastrian country, Eidee among them. Islamic influences have changed the gifting process, as in PK’s experience money is placed in a Qur’an prior to being distributed. This blesses the currency. The bills are not randomly placed in the text, but bookmark specific passages of the gifter’s choice, which they read when distributing the Eidee. A similar religiously-motivated change is the replacement of wine with vinegar on the haft seen: a table decorated with symbolic objects for Persian New Year.
In my personal experience, Eidee has continued to be purely money; no toys or sweets. The money is American currency rather than Iranian, and my family no longer shares gold for the occasion. However, people still hold on to their ages-old Eidee gold for long-term value. As PK mentioned, the value of Iranian Rial is nothing now, but she received her fair share of gold coins, and only one is still worth its weight.

Eidee : Receiving Money for Nowruz

Background: The informant is a sophomore film student at USC. He learned the tradition from practicing it with his mother’s side of the family during his childhood in San Ramon, CA. His mother was born in the US to Iranian parents and moved back to Iran for a brief period of time before moving back to the US. It is worth noting that the informant prefers the term Persian rather than Iranian when discussing his cultural background.  

Context: The following is transcribed from an over-the-phone interview with the informant. The informant and I are well acquainted so the discussion was casual.

Piece: 

Informant: “The reason I’m saying Nowruz really weirdly is that I usually call it eid. So the money, the two dollar bills my grandma would give us that’s called eidee. Usually people don’t give gifts for eidee like eidee refers to a gift you’ve received because of new years but most people don’t give like a physical gift, most people give money. So like I might get like a twenty dollar or a five dollar, you know like it’s usually small. It’s very symbolic it’s sort of like I think Chinese New Year, you get like the little red envelope. So it’s like a similar thing. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a physical thing as a gift for eidee, maybe my mom just gives me chocolates, you know. It’s just a small little gesture.

Collector: “Is it usually family members who give it to you?”

Informant: “In my experience, the way my family we have the literal family but we also have like you know family friends who are essentially family who I would get eidee from. I mean it’s whoever comes to the [Nowruz/Eid] party. But like my mom would not give eidee to her sister, it’s really more of a thing for the kids. In my family it’s really just a thing for the kids. Maybe my grandma gives it to her daughters, but I doubt it.”

Analysis: Children are often seen as the future, the new/next generation. Because of this, many cultures celebrate the new year by dawning fortune upon children. I’ve heard of a very similar tradition for the Chinese New Year, as mentioned by the informant, in which children are given red envelopes filled with money. I was surprised to hear the informant refer to Nowruz as “Eid” because this is an Arabic, rather than Farsi, word for “festival, holiday.” Eidi is also a word used to refer to a gift given by elders to a child (usually money) usually for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This practice is very similar to the one described by the informant based on what the gift is and who is giving and receiving it.The informant specified the spelling of “eidee” rather than eidi, but their similar pronunciation and practice is worth noting. In either case, the practice appears to be a way for the past generation (the elders) to invest in the future generation as liminal demarcations of time pass. 

Eid and Indonesian Cemeteries

Main Piece (direct transcription):

S: “In Indonesia, When Ramadan, or the thirty days of fasting has past, Eid is the last day.  On Eid, it’s tradition to go to the mosque in the morning, and after the mosque, you go directly to the cemetery where all your relatives are.  Sometimes, in my case, some of my relatives are in different cemeteries so we’ll go to the first cemetery, and then the next.  It’s tradition to go to the cemetery and bring water, food, and flowers.  We bring gallons of water and water bottles, and then we open the water bottle and pour it over the grave to hydrate the dead and feed them since it’s Eid, and it’s the last day of fasting.  We also put the food near the headstones.  The headstones look a little different than traditional American headstones.  Even though it’s important to bring flowers and such on other occasions to the cemetery, it’s especially important to bring these things on Eid after going to the mosque.”

Me: “Can you describe what the headstones look like?”

S: “They’re not very large.  In America, it’s really funny because in cemeteries, the bodies are very spread apart, and very far from each other, but in Indonesia, they’re very, very close together.  What would be two burial sports in America would be around six to eight in Indonesia.  They are VERY close together.”

 

Context: I was skyping my friend S, who is a student at University of Seattle and went to middle and high school with me in Albuquerque.  She is half Indonesian from her mother’s side and grew up with both Muslim and Catholic faith.  I was asking her about her about Indonesian traditions and folklore since she’s visited the country regularly to see her Indonesian family, and I hadn’t really heard anything about Indonesian folklore before.  Since her Muslim faith is closely intertwined with her Indonesian heritage, she told me that she had a lot of traditions and stories that reflected both Indonesia and Muslim faith in her family.

 

My thoughts: I like this piece because it not only gives insight to Muslim faith and their traditions after Ramadan, but also about how Indonesian culture treats life after death, and their loved ones who have passed on.  She told me this through her experience from visiting Indonesia during Ramadan, which I think is really special because she has first-hand experience with this tradition during Eid.  I thought that her description of the cemeteries and the closeness of the graves in Indonesia were helpful to envision what the actual event is like, and she later told me that she thinks it symbolizes the closeness of Indonesian culture, and how Indonesian individuals really like being close to one another, and forming a close community.