A New Eid Tradition: Secret Gift Exchange

eid mubarak wrapping paper with bow
Image courtesy | Etsy seller PencesModernEID

Our thanks to Meena Malik, who is not only an author for MuslimMatters, but an Elfster expert when it comes to the celebration of Eid. She shares with us her new Eid tradition — bringing her community together for fun and meaningful Secret Eid gift exchanges.

Gift exchanges – they’re common traditions for many gift-giving holidays in America. I’ve participated in gift exchanges in religious and secular contexts. I’ve loved being a member and even a host of them in the past! This past Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, I organized a virtual secret gift exchange using Elfster. We called it “Secret Bakra” from the Urdu “bakra” which means goat) with my siblings, cousins, and their spouses who live all over the US. It was one of the most memorable and fun things I have ever done for Eid in my life! The best part of a gift exchange is that I don’t have to feel the pressure of gifting 13 people gifts every Eid. But I feel as if I have!

Here’s a quick guide and some tips to help you and your family or friends organize an Eid gift exchange!

Gift Exchange Basics

A gift exchange requires: 

  • a group of 3 to 40 people
  • a budget range for the gift
  • deadlines for sending/receiving gifts
  • an organizational system to assign members who they will be giving gifts to (how about Elfster?)

Optional parts of a gift exchange can be:

  • some sort of exchange party (in-person or virtual)
  • gift recommendations/interests for each person (to help nudge the gift-giver in the right direction)
  • an anonymous/secret exchange system with a reveal during the party/after everyone has gotten their gifts

Why a (Secret) Eid Gift Exchange?

Ramadan Mubarak decorations in gold
Image courtesy | Etsy seller IslamicMetalWallArt

Following the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Bringing People Together

The most important motivation anyone can have to organize or participate in a gift exchange is taken from a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He says, “Mutual gift-giving increases the love between people.” This hadith can be taken as advice for a way to bring people closer together with the intention of following the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Celebrating Eid and Creating Meaningful Traditions

Another important motivation is to celebrate Eid, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has mentioned, is because it is a main annual holiday for Muslims. This makes Eid special for you, your family, or a group of friends or coworkers or mosque volunteers. Not only is it important for individuals and families to establish Eid traditions that everyone can look forward to (Eid shouldn’t just be fun for kids!), but it is particularly important in communities in which Muslims are a minority. I’ve always been a firm advocate for making fun, memorable Eids with exciting, wholesome Eid traditions and festivities.

Manageable Way to Give Gifts within a Large Group of People

A gift exchange is a great way to give gifts in a large group of people without breaking the bank. It also means you’re not exhausting yourself trying to think of gifts and then buying or making them. My cousins and I have gotten closer more recently due to an upswing in family weddings. I really felt like giving all of them gifts last Eid. Realistically, I didn’t have $200 to get all 9 people in this group a decent gift. I didn’t have the time to make 9 gifts that were meaningful and special for each person. Or the energy to come up with different gifts for all 9 individuals. 

A couple of years ago, my husband and I sent ice cream gift cards and personalized Eid cards to each one of our cousins (allocating $5 per cousin per family). It felt great to extend an “Eid ice cream on us” gesture. But for $45, it didn’t seem like we really got much of a bang for our buck. By doing a Secret Bakra Gift Exchange, we both spent under $30 total for our gifts, but it felt like more of a meaningful gift.  It also felt like each one of my siblings/cousins gave a gift to everyone in the group–and that’s the magic of gift exchanges! Although we didn’t give and receive 9 gifts on Eid, we all came together to celebrate our family ties (so highly emphasized in Islam) and Eid in a special way and everyone felt like they scored on Eid. 

Lastly, if there’s a dedicated group of people that you always do a gift exchange with, such as extended family in my case, theoretically everyone will end up giving everyone else a gift when you consider probabilities if you do a gift exchange every Eid for enough years, right?

Bridging the Gap: Togetherness Despite Age, Distance, Financial Means, etc.

One thing that was super magical for my cousins and I this past Eid was having the feeling that we celebrated Eid together.

We’re always lamenting the fact that we seldom get together and rarely with all of us or, we’re talking about how if we were closer to each other then we’d do xyz awesome, fun things together all the time.

This gift exchange wasn’t just about giving each other gifts. It was also about making time for a video call in which we all made it despite being strung across three different time zones and having work/school the next day to unwrap our gifts and wish each other a blessed and joyous Eid. Plus it’s about creating a more tight-knit group and welcoming the newcomers to our extended family. (We’ve had two weddings in one year and we’re all still getting to know the new spouses and vice versa). 

We’re all different in many ways–age, gender, religiosity, personality, etc. We may interact with each other (and even be fond of each other) at varying levels. Doing an anonymous gift exchange is a great way to force a person’s hand into making a greater effort to connect with another person in a wholesome, beautiful manner. 

Lastly, we considered our budget range to accommodate our financially-dependent younger cousins in high school, our unemployed bunch, our students, etc. No one felt burdened by the price tag for the gifts. Everyone felt like they made a meaningful contribution no matter what their lifestyle or financial means allow.

beautiful gifts for eid
Image courtesy | Etsy seller VivaLittleThingsShop

Find the Perfect Gifts for Eid on Elfster

Explore Elfster’s Eid Gift Guide to find the perfect Eid present. These gifts are a perfect addition to your own Elfster wishlist. It’s an easy and polite way to let everyone know what you really want!

Need help? You can reach the elves at Elfster via Facebook here, Tweet us @Elfster or follow on Instagram at @Elfster

May Your Eid Be Blessed!

About Meena Malik 2 Articles
Meena is a writer, podcaster, high school English teacher, wife, and new mom. She loves working with Muslim youth and is interested in literature, arts, and culture. She studied Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Irvine and has a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Check out her podcast and website Brown Teacher Reads: the brown literature circle you always wanted to be in. (brownteacherreads.com)