The dilemma of celebrating Eid

Insistence on visiting own families leads to conflicts between couples


By Razaz Ainousah

Saudi Gazette

EID AL-FITR marks the end of Ramadan and is a joyful occasion for Muslims all over the world. It is a time for big family get-togethers where close relatives and extended family members from all parts of the Kingdom gathering in one place.

The day usually begins with the whole family having breakfast together.

Every person is happy and enthusiastic to celebrate the annual celebration with praying, exchanging gifts with close family members and having a big feast with friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, this occasion sometimes turns ugly for some people and ends up with a huge fight, argument and in some cases even divorce.

Each person wants to celebrate Eid with his or her relatives first. Due to the traditions and customs, men tend to prioritize their own relatives over their in-laws. This problem is even bigger when the families of the husband and wife live far apart in different cities. This can be a trigger for an argument between the couples.

Some men force their wives to spend the Eid with their families, which means a woman has to follow her husband's wish lest she will face bad consequences.

As a result of this kind of coercion, many young women hate celebrating Eid with their in-laws. They blame their husband’s lack of understanding and possessiveness for their attitude.

Others divide the Eid days equally between both families.

Saudi Gazette interviewed a few women in order to share their experiences in celebrating Eid.

“I forgot Eid’s happiness because I cannot see my family during the first three days of the festival,” said Rula, a housewife in her early 20s who did not wish to reveal her family name due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Her mother-in-law insists that she spends the first three days of Eid with them. Her husband is helpless as his mother controls the entire family and prevents her daughters-in-law from seeing their families during Eid. The mother asks her sons to refuse any requests from their wives to visits their relatives during the festival.

“My mother-in-law is a control freak. We need to see our families too,” Rula added.

She explained that if any of them defied her order, then the mother-in-law would pile pressure on her son to divorce his wife.

Rula complies with her mother-in-law's wishes without any resistance because she wants to protect her marriage.

Razan, a housewife in her mid-40s who also did not wish to reveal her full name, explained that she had been married for over 20 years but never had a chance to celebrate Eid with her family after marriage because her family lives in Madinah and her husband’s family is from Makkah.

“I have never seen my family on Eid night or even during the three days of Eid since I got married because I have to spend the whole Eid with my husband and in-laws. On the second day of Eid my family used to have a big celebration in Madinah, but my husband does not allow me to attend.”

Razan felt terrible about her life during Eid without the chance to see her relatives and celebrate with them.

Finally, after 20 years of marriage, her husband agreed to allow her to visit her family on the night before Eid on condition that she returns before the Eid prayer and ends up spending the next three days with his relatives.

Her husband does not allow her daughters to see her family and spend a day with them during Eid despite them begging repeatedly.

Wijdan, a Saudi mother of two, said she has to follow the tradition and celebrate the Eid with her in-laws whether she liked it or not. “I have to do it. It is a marriage obligation to prioritize my in-laws over my family for whatever reason,” she said.

"Some men think that wives are objects they own. They do not know that the marriage relationship is built on mutual understanding. I will honor my obligations toward my husband and in-laws and spend the morning of Eid with them out of respect. Then I will spend the evening with my family, which is the understanding we have. My husband knows that if he insists on not seeing my family, then there will be huge problems between us that could end up in divorce,” she added.

Wijdan considers herself lucky because both her and her husband's families are in Jeddah, unlike many others who face huge problems because they are from distant cities.

Not all couples fight over Eid celebrations because they have reached an understanding to avoid such conflicts.

Asmaa Jambi, a Saudi photographer in her late 20s, said, “Thank God my husband and I have an agreement how to celebrate Eid. We divide the day in order to celebrate with both our families,” she said.

Jambi explained that the amazing thing her family does is to delay their breakfast to 10 or 11 a.m. for her and her husband to join. Thus Jambi has an opportunity to celebrate with both families on the first day of Eid itself.

Right after the Eid prayer she spends time with her husband and in-laws. “I need to do that because they too are my family and I want to celebrate with them as well. Why did I get married if I don’t want to be part of that family and celebrate the happy occasions together,” she said.

After celebrating with her in-laws Jambi and her husband go to her family to have another breakfast. “By doing this, we satisfied everyone because after all marriage is a matter of sharing between two families. We are not enemies here anyway,” Jambi added.

Danya Babkhair, marriage and family therapist, said she receives many cases of divorce during Ramadan, Eid and other happy occasions because there is a lot of pressure on people during these events.

There are several factors that make men control their wives during celebrations, she says.

Men want to feel that they are in control and therefore dictate to their wives. Also, many Saudi men don’t want their wives to go to their families because they know how such visits influence them in a ways that they do not like.

“In our tradition, men usually control their wives. Also, most relationships between Saudi men and women are not a partnership of equals," said Babkhair, adding that in marriage relationship Saudi men tend to see themselves as the boss or leader.

“This is acceptable in Saudi society, and sometimes women enjoy such domination. However, in some situations, men need to behave like partners because women too have feelings," she said.

Babkhair added, “Problems generally happen in the first years of marriage because mostly Saudi men want to be trusted like a leader and want to be in control. The wife has to follow her husband in all matters, which gives the man a lot of power. He needs to emphasize and does things that his wife doesn't like. However, men tend to change when there is mutual trust. Husbands will eventually relent and allow their wives to visit their families during Eid and other happy occasions. Some men wouldn’t let women visit their families initially but over time when trust builds up between them, the attitude changes."

Babkhair added that the fact there was family pressure from the husband's side plays an important role in this problem. The husband’s family believe that it is their right to have their daughters-in-law and children with them. They want their sons to exercise their authority as husbands and force their wives to stay with them.

Another situation that many couples face is when each of them are from different cities. "If the husband’s family is in Dammam and the wife’s family in Jeddah, how can they spend Eid with both families?" Babkhair asked. “Both of them need to understand, be mature and make some compromise. One of the keys to a successful marriage is compromise with love, not with hate and disrespect,” she added.

“One of the things that I advise every Saudi female is to be empowered, trusted and confident from within. One day the doors will open before them. Also, remember to hold conversations peacefully, with love and understanding. Do not start questioning because if the wife starts questioning, this will definitely lead to a fight. The couples need to remember where they come from and know how to influence their spouses,” she added.