Around the world, children are gifted small amounts of cash to mark special occasions throughout the year. For Muslims, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha are such celebrations, and with the former beginning shortly, we’re taking a look at what’s behind the tradition.
Eidi—called Eidiyah in Arabic, Eidhi on the Indian Subcontinent, or Raya in Indonesia and Malaysia—is typically given to youngsters by elder relatives and family friends. It can also be exchanged by husbands and wives, siblings and friends. It often takes the form of spending money, given in plain or decorated envelopes, though some families exchange different sorts of gifts, and others give no eidi at all.
The tradition dates back to the early Middle Ages, when the Fatimid Caliphate of North Africa started distributing money, clothing or sweets to their people on the first day of Eid. By the end of the Ottomon era some five centuries later, it had become more akin to the familial gifting that survives to this day.
As with cash given in red envelopes for Lunar New Year, crisp new banknotes are preferred, and banks are inundated with customers wanting to make withdrawals in the lead up to Eid holidays.
For many parents, gifting children cash is a fun way to introduce the basics of financial education and responsibility, allowing them the freedom to choose when and how they spend or save it.
There are parents who use the tradition of Eidiyah as a way to teach children about money management and saving for the future.
Spreading the joy of Eid in the form of cash is intended to be a thoughtful act of giving, and is also an opportunity to introduce young people to the importance of zakat (charity), which is one of the five pillars of Islam. This is an obligation to donate a portion (typically 2.5 percent) of one’s wealth to charity as an act of worship and self-purification.
Eid Al Fitr—the Festival of Breaking the Fast—marks the end of Ramadan, a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting. It will be celebrated differently in different countries, often with particular decorations and feasts of traditional food, but across the globe, youngsters will be looking forward to their Eidi.