Eid during Covid-19: could the pandemic push Eideyya online?

Covid fears and travel restrictions raise concerns about traditional cash gifts

Powered by automated translation

In his home in Gaziantep, Turkey, Syrian refugee Mohammed does not see the point of giving money to his three-year-old daughter Seba this Eid Al Fitr.

The holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is known for its large feasts, indulgent sugary treats and the traditional Eideyya, a sum of cash usually given to children as a gift by adult relatives and friends.

Showing off new clothes at large gatherings is also a feature of the three-day holiday.

"I bought my daughter Eid clothes but, unfortunately, she won't be able to wear them outside the house," the Mohammed, who is in his 30s, told The National. "We won't be able to go to amusement parks, or toy stores. I will add her Eid money to her savings for later when she can use it."

Mohammed provided only his first name because  his job requires him to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Turkey is on a 17-day lockdown; the country’s strictest measures yet to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 43,000 people there and infected five million.

Lockdowns and travel restrictions mean no large family gatherings this Eid, ruining the way people are accustomed to celebrating with family and friends.

A social media poll of 538 people conducted by The National showed a strong divide between people willing to change to a digital medium to exchange gifts. More than half of those polled said they would rather give and receive Eid money via a wire transfer. The rest voted for cash.
"The future is cashless," said Bahraini university student Abdullah Bawazeer, who participated in the poll. "That is inevitable. So yes, I'm looking forward to getting money digitally."

But Saudi communications specialist Muath bin Nujiyfan, 25, said he would rather not give cash at all if the only option was to do it online.

“It does not feel the same as when you hand it to someone, from your hand to theirs, and see their reaction.”

The eldest, he usually gives his five siblings between 100 riyals ($26) and 50 riyalsevery year, depending on their age.

The pleasure associated with receiving what relatively little money every adult places in tiny hands brightens faces and creates unforgettable childhood memories.

The World Health Organisation is urging people not to use cash because it may lead to the spread of the disease, but some people appear to be taking that warning lightly.

Palestinian-Jordanian Bahaa Mahmoud Shihahdeh, 32, said it is considered shameful among members of his family to not hand children their Eid money, especially in communities where wire transfers are looked at with scepticism.

“They are not afraid of the coronavirus,” he said. "They will give cash without issues. Plus, they do not trust online money transfers."

That is exactly what television writer Jordanian Razan Al Zouabi,25, believes.

“It is simply tradition. We just have to be careful.”