This Eid I just want Santa Claus!

Published: August 10, 2013

Celebrating Eid in the right spirit doesn't cost a thing. It's shouldn't be all about money!

Eid Mubarak everyone!

I am sure all of you are enjoying the day today – eating scrumptious food, wearing gorgeous new clothes, visiting your family and friends and then, obviously, eagerly awaiting your Eidi. What fun. After all, this is what Eid is all about.

Unfortunately, not all of us will be celebrating Eid the traditional way.

There was a time, a few years ago, when shops on Chaand Raat would be bustling with men and women frantically getting their last minute Eid errands completed. Every store had a bigger, brighter sign exclaiming it was giving a better discount than their counterparts and even the thelay waley reduced their already low prices as a gesture to welcome the pious holiday we would all celebrate together.

We accommodated and compromised to make sure everyone had a chance to celebrate – in whatever fashion they could manage.

A few days ago, I walked out of my room and saw the maid sewing away at a slightly ripped shirt. She had asked my mom to give her buttons that my mother was no longer going to use so that she could stitch them to the top she had in her hand. I asked her what she was doing and she replied,

Baji, yeh Sana ke liye Eid ka kurta tayar kar rahi hoon.

(“Baji, I am preparing an Eid dress for Sana.”)

Ignorant to the fact that she was mending a ripped shirt, I continued to ask the obvious.

Lekin Khannum baji, yeh toh phata howa hai!

(“But Khannum baji, this is torn!”)

I regretted saying this as soon as the words had tumbled out of my mouth. A little embarrassed, she went onto sheepishly explain how her pregnant daughter would outgrow the clothes anyways and things were just too expensive for her to buy her an outfit this time around.

As many of us already know, the word ‘sale’ in Pakistan really doesn’t mean sale. I am sure every woman reading this blog would agree – it’s a hoax that our brains fall for each time we see a banner inviting us to splurge. The concept of a sale here is to increase the already extravagant price of a product by 20% and then put a 20% sale tag on it. Now, although I do believe, in some dark business-minded corner of my head, that this was a really smart way to cut losses, my conscience just cannot reconcile with the concept of fleecing someone when I’m obviously making a profit anyway – especially on occasions like Eid!

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, my grandmother is a Czech national who converted to Islam from Christianity upon marrying my grandfather. We do, however, celebrate Christmas at my house with as much zeal as we do Eid and in recent times, much to my disappointment, I have found celebrating Christmas to be so much more fun.

My conclusion here really has nothing to do with religion. I respect the premise of Eid and would celebrate it regardless but I believe that holidays like these, especially religious ones, are for children to enjoy. When I was younger, my grandfather did not believe in giving us money as a form of Eidi. All the kids of the house, including myself, were given sheets of paper with various clues and those clues led us to our Eid presents! Yup- we used to have a scavenger hunt and that was tradition until my grandfather passed away. This did not mean that we were given extravagant presents, these gifts consisted mostly of sweets, a lattoo (spinning top) and maybe a board game, but the thrill of looking for those presents was unmatched! At that point in my life, Eid won. Hands down!

Recently, however, the trend has changed and become so money minded that from the time Eid is anticipated to the end of the third day, you see children running around adults stalking them for money they can add to their already overflowing wallets or adults hiding in remote corners resigned to the financial pressures of the holiday.

Clothes have to be bought and food has to be served, so prices are automatically increased. Eidi has to be given so you see little palms sticking out everywhere but is this what Eid is really all about?

Having been exposed to other worldly festivals I cannot help but compare the fact that on Christmas the world bustles with excitement because things are suddenly so much more affordable. Prices are reduced to the absolute minimum possible and the spirit of the occasion takes over the airwaves weeks in advance. Enthusiastic shoppers go well in advance but those who have less affordability wait until a little closer to the holiday for better deals, but everything becomes within your means. Children are excited about the presents filling up under the tree and lights and decorations capture the streets. The presents are not gaudy shows of affection but mere gestures wrapped up in lights, decor, a tree and an imaginary Santa Claus. It is enthralling.

For me, my grandfather was Santa Claus and Eid was Christmas and he made this special effort on Eid just so that we, the children, never felt more inclined to celebrate events other than Eid. I learnt the importance of Eid and enjoyed it to the brim; nowadays however, I can’t even afford the teacup let alone enjoying it to the brim!

Working a nine-to-five job still does not afford me the means to celebrate Eid in the pompous Pakistani way, so how would my maid be able to afford it? Do the less fortunate not deserve to celebrate this day?

Every Eid, my father buys clothes for the people in our village and for our house help. Each one of them gets a new outfit but, because they have other responsibilities as well like food and their own children, Eidi is also a must. We help where we can, but there are many more out there that are seen in a distraught state of affairs. Eid is becoming more unaffordable with each passing year and has already become a holiday for the elite; I fear in due time it might not be a holiday at all.

If things continue the way that they are, there will come a day that Eid will not be celebrated in this country. Our government and business industries need to understand that they can only juice their citizens this much and no more. Although I do believe that there is more to Eid than just the shopping aspect, the fact that people are left with no other option but to stop celebrating is a cause for concern.

I asked my maid,

Toh Khannum baji, ap log Eid pe kya karien ge?

(“So Khannum baji, what are you all going to do on Eid?”)

She laughed and what she said to me made me understand that maybe this unaffordability is something that will take us back to understanding the true meaning of Eid, where money will not be the reason driving the holiday. She replied,

Baji hum toh sub saath mien samandar (Sea View) jaien ge. Iss tarhaan naye kapron ki zaroorat bhi nahi ho gi, bachey enjoy bhi karien ge aur Eid bhi ho jaye gi!

(“Baji, we are going to go to Sea View. That way we will not need new clothes, the kids will enjoy themselves and we will also get to celebrate Eid!”)

She had it all figured out and she was excited despite the fact that her daughter may not be able to wear new clothes on Eid.

This Eid I would ask you to try and enjoy the free benefits life has to offer and realise that sometimes that’s all one needs to enjoy oneself. And the next time you pass a comment about those ‘Gulshu’s invading your side of the bridge’ please remember that they have a right to celebrate as well, and while you’re out and about strutting your new outfit to the world, just know that not only are they celebrating Eid in the right spirit, it didn’t cost them anything to do so!

It’s not all about the money!


Erum Shaikh

The writer is a News Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Dp

    Inflating prices by 20% &then offering a 20% discount is unethical. Cheating the shoppers. It’s another form of stealing. Sins in different disguises.Recommend

  • Faizan Aftab

    It’s very sad moment which you have facedRecommend

  • KB

    offensive title shows writers infatuation of western culture. Recommend

  • Parvez

    I thought that was a great way to say something as important as what you have said.
    In my view the institution of Eid like religion ( both interconnected ) is crumbling, the substance, the essence has disappeared being replaced by empty form of a pretty crass selfserving nature.
    Focusing on the Eid day tamasha I’ll go out on a limb here and put the blame pretty much on the women who contrive excuses to debase the whole exercise…………..but you are right, if it goes on like this it will correct itself………..hopefully :-)
    Eid Mubarak and always enjoy reading you.

  • Khan Afsar

    True joy of Eid-ul-Fitr is for ones who fast during holy month of Ramdan and they will continue to celebrate it any cost.Recommend

  • Noor

    @ KB
    Your remark reflects your narrow,intolerant outlook.Recommend

  • KB

    I wish I was King for just one day so I could ship all the “civil society” types out of the country to where ever they want to go >>>>>>>> no I am just joking and apologize for my above comment – but the title “is” very unconventional for a Pathan head like me.Recommend

  • Noor

    @ KB
    Brother..I can call you brother? There’s no harm in having beliefs and standards,but it’s not ideal to impose,our standards on others-that leads to strife and intolerence in any society.The world is made up of different people and it’s nice to respect differences and live in peace on this little planet.Respecting others doesn’t mean letting go of your values.Eid Mubarak.Recommend

  • Antebellum

    This Eid I just want Santa Claus!

    You want Maulana Fazlur Rehman?Recommend

  • Stuck-up Biatch

    Eid is all about the cash, sweetheart. Grow up!Recommend

  • KAY

    I am disgusted. FOA, i do not understand it is your story or your “maid’s” story?. Every other author here has made it a routine to compare whole society of Pakistan with “maids”, “servants” and ” beggars” as a bench mark. In west most families cannot afford maids or servants. If your maid does not have enough money to celebrate Eid festival, no body is stopping you from helping her by paying her an extra salary or a bonus. Why dont you buy a dress for her daughter? Eid or Christmas has no meaning without new clothes, food and eidi/ presents/ gifts.

    P.S Controlling the prices is government’s job.Recommend

  • MF

    Spot on. Handing over money doesn’t have any religious ground however giving gifts,meeting and spending time with less privileged is religiously appreciated. In the west and countries where,our children go to schools that do,follow and celebrate Christmas, its vitally important for parents to highlight the rituals of Eid, Islamic rituals not the monkey business that goes around the tv channels.

    we should encourage kids to,pack and exchange,gifts possibly take them to orphans houses so they can realize and appreciate the blessings of AllahRecommend

  • x

    @writer, what are you doing? not as a earning professional but as an employer? At our place, we give eid clothes, mehndi, choorian, earings, sandals, hair clips and a clutch to our young 21 year old maid and my nephew’s nanny, eid clothes to the older maid along with some gifts for her family, shalwar kamiz suits to our cook and driver, and eidi for all. I would feel great shame of my maid did not have enough for this. Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    Sorry, writer but I simply don’t get it…
    As for growing inflation its indeed a very serious problem but inflation has effected Christmas just as much…. You see there are not even those nominal “Grand Discount Sales” at christmas and majority of christian are financially no better than their muslim brothers..My neighbors are christian so I have some idea about their problems.
    Your grand father was a truly great man who invented a creative idea of giving away Eidi in a treasure hunt, now it was up to you to continue and improve upon the tradition instead of complaining…..Your father distributes new clothes and Eidi among his domestic helpers, with your creativity and a little time you can definitely help make those small gifts very special and very precious for those poor fellows
    And overall it turns out your maid that Khannum Baji looks at things more positively than you do… and I am sure she must have enjoyed Eid more than you did… and that’s all the difference… ATTITUDE.
    She didn’t have new clothes so she mended the old one. She couldn’t afford to have a grand feast so she decided to go to the beach with her family… It simply proves that in order to live fully you don’t need much stuff in your pockets and your bags… all you need is some good stuff in your heart.
    Your blog just showed me how consumerism has taught us to judge all things in terms of money and or commodities… that’s sad really
    Send my regards to the maid.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Eid is about coming together as a family and feasting. Its not consumerism. What did religious festivals like eid become about shopping!

    Oh please! Wake up smell the coffee. Hazrat Umar RA didn’t have money to buy new clothes for his kids during his Caliphate. However he did celebrate Eid with utmost enthusiasm.

    Eid is about families getting together and enjoying and thanking GOD for HIS blessings.Recommend

  • S

    Totally agree with @KB. Pakistanis are pathetic, especially liberal Pakistani women.Recommend

  • CyberFlirt


  • Ahmad

    I totally agree with Muhammad Ishfaq. Thank you Muhammad for sharing. Your spot on right.Recommend

  • Disgusted

    shameful. Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Muhammad Ishfaq: You and Ahmed are absolutely right…………’ll did not get it.

  • Haider

    Why doesn’t the author just convert to Christianity to put herself and us out of her misery. Recommend

  • Seem

    Which festival (religious or secular) on this planet has not been affected by inflation? Recommend

  • Gingo

    In so called ‘west’ the ‘infidels’ on their religious festivals lower the prices of their commodities in view of the ‘spirit’ of festivity, whereas in Pakistan it’s ‘this is the month to make money’. Guess who are better. Recommend

  • http://TYL/ hcmkvmj

    yes that is tureRecommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq


  • Insaan

    In so called ‘west’ on their religious festivals lower the prices of their commodities in view of the ‘spirit’ of festivity, whereas in Pakistan it’s ‘this is the month to make money’. Guess who are better

    Lowering prices is just a marketing technique. In month of December sales gross 3 times as much as in an average month, little to do with religion. It is all about making money.Recommend

  • Humza

    @Dp: You seem to think that the word sale is only a ploy in Pakistan; try getting out to the rest of the world and you’ll soon learn that in most places in the world the sign announcing ” sale” is only a gimmick. As for inflating prices and then reducing them in a preplanned manner to confound shoppers, I am sure that this practice is as old as man! By the way Insaan, I have never seen anyone in the West lower prices for religious festivals, Christmas included. If anything, prices are inflated not only before Christmas but now also at Boxing Day. Most folks will have to wait until February to really see a drop in the inflated prices.Recommend

  • sunara

    Tauba Tauba! You are calling an Isaai (Christian) holiday better than a Muslim holiday! Astaghfirullah!!! :P

    Good one, Erum. Been fuming over this for a long time. Great blog!. :*Recommend

  • fatima

    eid was never about destroying your budget. rather it was a day of celebration with family and friends. the main essence of eid is to cheer yourself up after Ramadan is gone. people who fast correctly with lots of voluntary prayers including tahajjud and taraweeh and lots of recitation of Qur’an genuinely do feel sad when ramadan is over.

    even if one hasnt done so much worship they can still enjoy the time with their families and friends on eid.

    this is what needs to be taught rather than finding the incorrect solution of saying eid should be for children only. and of course people need to be taught that eid is NOT just about the clothes and gifts etc. once people observe Ramadan correctly (or at least try to) and eid correctly then the demand for such goods and hence the prices will fall too. this is where i agree with the author that the price hike is because of demand.

    regarding christmas. well it would be useless if the prices go up on it too. that’s not the point.Recommend

  • keaga

    well expressed artcle…agree completely with the writer’s point of view and her sentiments…she is only talking about taking the money equation away as the end all and be all of the Eid holidays…great example of how her grand father mnade is so much fun and exciting for the kids without being extravagant and wasteful…a little imagination, a little fun and thought to the family went a longer way than mere money…it made Eid more fun and gave a great lesson which luckily his grand daughter has absorbedRecommend

  • fatima


    since you clearly did not tolerate KB’s comment you yourself are intolerant.

    so why don’t we quit throwing this intolerance and ‘dont judge’ rhetoric around eh?Recommend

  • Kashif Ajmal Malik

    Another attempt for comments as eidi with the … ohhh ok ok… we either publish our own employees posts here who can not get it published anywhere else in Pakistan, or the people who make fun of Pakistan and Islam, exaggerate about women’s rights and promote the westernization. Thanks, ET. Recommend

  • Ali

    “The presents are not gaudy shows of affection but mere gestures wrapped up in lights, decor, a tree and an imaginary Santa Claus.” Really?? No need to sugar coat everything that happens in the west as exemplary. All holidays are based on commercialism. If you got money, you enjoy holidays, if not you blame the holidays. Once you get to know what happens behind the curtain, holidays even in the west aren’t that jolly. Anyway, Eid Mubarak to everyone.Recommend

  • Travel_Tart

    Celebrating Christmas is the same too. In fact, industry is much more commercialised in Western countries.
    Christmas and Easster are a big money maker here in the UK. Everything closes down too for nearly a month. In fact, I find Eid to be much easier and simpler to celebrate here, irony!Recommend

  • Nj


    Open your mind. If they’re more people who think like Noor,there will be no bloodshed or hatred.Recommend

  • fatima


    ah some more rhetoric this time of ‘open your mind’.

    since when is throwing rhetoric called ‘opening your mind’? you wish to disagree then fine. but using loaded rhetoric such as ‘intolerance’ etc does not add any educated matter to your argument.

    FYI: you want to stop bloodshed, you dont look at liberalism. the US Army has been liberal for best part of two centuries. look how much blood they have shed. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @fatima: FYI: you want to stop bloodshed, you dont look at liberalism. the US Army has been liberal for best part of two centuries. look how much blood they have shed.

    When Muslims had power they killed millions. India was attacked and looted by Muslim invaders many times.

    Pakistanis killed 3 million people in East Pakistan and more then a million in Afghanistan by playing Taliban to gain strategic depth.

    IRAN and IRAQ fought a war for 10 years and not a single Muslim country tried to stop the war.

    Most of Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been killed by Muslims themselves.


  • Col. Nicholson

    @Stuck-up Biatch:

    Thumbs up on User ID, mate…made my afternoon. Couldn’t stop ROFLMAO.


    “Much that once was, is lost. For none now live, who remember it.” – Galadriel, Lord of the Rings.Recommend