Friday, 9 April 2010

Eid Ekito

Today is no doubt a historical day, with either celebrations or lamentations.

I 'can't be bothered' for either of these two, and instead, I recount this year, as being the first year I didn't celebrate Eid Ekito with my family.

Ever since I can remember, my family has celebrated Eid Ekito, though at times, it was most certainly an embarrassment to me. Especially when trying to explain to the teachers exactly why i had missed 3 days of school.

Before and during 2004, Youm (my great grandmother -God rest her soul) was in charge of organising Eid Ekito, until her death later that year.
She always indulged us all, and the whole house would be filled with lighted candles. It felt so magical to wander through her old fashioned house- walking as softly as i could, so none of the flickering candles would blow out.

After 2004, my dad took over the Eid stories and planning. He always stressed that we should keep this tradition alive.
This eid almost always coincided a few days after Nawroz,so it came as no suprise, that my older brother would mention this. My dad of course denied that Eid Ekito had anything to do with Nawroz - he boasted that Eid Ekito had been celebrated from the beginning of civilization, and Nawroz was young in comparison.
Unfortunately, none of us believed him, and we all rolled our eyes sarcastically. Well I did anyway. Because of the reverence which our great grandmother had for Eid Ekito, none of us had contested it with her. But with my dad, it became an all out war, us trying to prove that they had made this all up.

Eid Ekito is not a religious celebration in that sense. The best way I could describe it would be to say it was a 'pagan' festival, although out of my whole family, Youm was the most religious.
Truthfully, it didn't make sense, and we generally didn't share our celebration of this Eid with other people, perhaps in fear of being judged. But our parents always would repeat that the whole of Iraq celebrated it.
Youm used to recount how in her younger years, the Tigris would be filled with floating candles. My father would agree with her, and tell us how he would hold his mother's hand, as they placed a candle in Diyala River, praying for his success.
He angrily recalls how Saddam got rid of this, and my brain would automatically shut off as politics creeped in.

It wasn't as magical without Youm.

The stories told was of old warring Babylonian gods and goddesses. We would sit around the table, eating sugary snacks, and talking at the same time, with such excitement. My brother would constantly spray me with food and saliva as he talked, prompting me to always crawl up to the sofa to avoid him.Ironically on the sofa, my dad's eating of pistachios meant i had to dodge hard shell bullets, as my dad tried to throw the shells onto the table.
I put up with this only as long as the stories lasted. As soon as they ended, I would go to the kitchen where 4 generations met - my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and me. They would gossip, and i would try to make sense of their talk, as they asked me to get them juice, water, a spoon etc, all the time using the cutest endearments.

After a while, I would walk out the kitchen door into the garden. I'd carry candles with me, enjoying how the wax snaked down the candles, then onto my skin. Laying them onto the dry grass, I would bounce onto the ground, shouting for my sister to join me, and bring a bottle of water with her. Some Eids she came, and other Eids I would stay out alone, listening to talk and laughter, until i slept under the stars.
Every time i was woken, whoever woke me would mutter about my stubbornness - I'd be covered in bug bites. Nonetheless, I was smiling widely when I crawled into bed, my mouth still sweet from 3 days of sugar.

Next year, I'm going to make sure I go back on time to celebrate Eid with them. Even though the stories have gotten repetitive and boring, and even though now only the table is filled with candles. Perhaps next year I'll try to light 70 candles as Youm always did.

It does exist!!! - its on wikipedia :


spinspermy said...

Ekito?! that's a new one, what exactly do you do in that occasion? btw, was that on March 21st?

Touta said...

hahahaha, see, i knew my parents lied to me, not 'everyone' celebrate it, do they?
Yeah, it was around 23rd march-1st april.

JG said...

I would go to the kitchen where 4 generations met - my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and me

Wow. That's incredible. I'm thiking not many people get to experience that.

Nice story...

Touta said...

at the time, you never realise how lucky you are, its when you lose certain aspects of your 'everyday' life, you go back with a bigger appreciation of it. :)

Ihsiin said...

I have to say, I've never heard of Eid Ekito. What's it about?

JG said...

Very true, Touta. That's something we all learn at some point or another.

Touta said...


Its a celebration of Life returning, through the rivers.

Its origins, is a love story gone wrong - 2 old gods of mythology each have to spend 6 months of the year being tortured in the underworld.
At first only the male god had to spend the whole year being tortured, his lover repented and asked for it to be undone. Instead, the other gods didn't agree, and compromised that he would only spend 6 months in the underworld, and she would then replace him for the other 6 months.
His ascent back into Life is the end of winter, and the beginning of Spring, his blood apparently flows through the Tigris at sunset, so people would lay out candles to welcome him and help his wounds 'heal'. And that's Eid Ekito.

In western mythology, its comparable to the Persephone Story, though in Eid Ekito it is the other way round. :)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I heard about Nawrooz (Nayrouz), but never heard of this one. Good to know ! Viva Iraq :D

Touta said...

Thanks! you know, i found a wikipedia article on ekito, but i forgot to favourite it. :S
as soon as i'll find it, i'll add it, because it makes more sense. :)

Ihsiin said...

I had no idea that such an ancient festival was still celebrated in Iraq. I thought the whole area was completely Abrahamised centuries ago. Nice to know that history still persists (somewhat).

Touta said...

ah you found it! :D

I kept trying to find it with my spelling.
I have never actually told any iraqi friends of this to tell you the truth, which seems a bit selfish now, but with the religious wave and general suspicion, it seemed wise to do.

There's lots of little traditions that aren't linked with abrahamic religions that still carry on, but like you said, over the years they get forgotten and almost toned down.

Anonymous said...

wow, i never knew this existed....i knew of a few ancient pagan festivities but this is a new one on the list. thanks for sharing Touta

Anonymous said...

Hey Touta, you have a really nice blog and I love the name you have chosen. R.I.P Nazem El-Ghazali your music still lives on in your hearts. Btw, you always seem to have something interesting to post. ^^ :)