Environmental Education Center

Environmentally Friendly Traditions

Feasts are an opportunity for joy, and are part of the Palestinian cultural heritage, which is mostly environment friendly: its food, drinks, sweets, games, rituals, and decorations. They also embody the idea of self-sufficiency and prevent environmental pollution and depletion of resources. Moreover, it demonstrates its keenness on sustainable production and consumption, through recycling of many materials.
Islamic and Christian Feasts are, more or the less, acts of worship that draw people closer to God (Easter which falls after the end of the 40-day fast, Christmas, Eidul Fitr which falls after the fast of the blessed month of Ramadan, and Eidul Adha which falls after the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca).
Christian and Muslim Feasts are similar in many customs, such as visiting cemeteries and relatives. There are also many religious seasons (Holy Saturday, al-Khidr, Mar Elias, the Feast of the Virgin, Nabi Mousa …etc.) that are celebrated with special rituals like the Feasts, which are celebrated less these days due to sieges, closures and restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli occupation.
In a brief reference to oral history collected by researchers of the Center for Environmental Education from its narrators, or published sources, the atmosphere of joy, fun and social solidarity was strongly present during the Feasts.

Ma'moul and necklaces

In Umm al-Zinat (a displaced village) near Haifa, the smell of Ma'moul and pies was wafting from the houses in the village before the war of 1948. Women and girls had worked for a long time before the feast making traditional sweets, preparing the dough, and taking it to the taboon (places for baking such as ovens), sprinkling sesame and qazha (black seed) on them. Later, they would place them in straw-made bowls before serving them to the guests along with Black coffee -coated almonds (called pigeon eggs).
Moreover, the girls used to spend time playing. They would make dolls, with the help of their mothers, from the remnants of unused cloth. They would also go to nearby orchards to play on homemade swings, by tying ropes between two dense trees in the shade.
Before that, they would make necklaces from coins (5 and 10 holed coin pence). They used to wear them and buy with them sweets, roasted beans and bracelets. As for the boys, they were very happy to say the "Takbeer" on the night of Eid with Abu Hanna, the mosque Imam. They used to go to Haifa to buy clothes long before the Feast. The girls would go to sew clothes in the village. They used to race to wear the round Eid Ma'moul in our hands as bracelets.

The boys used to race to wake up early on the morning of the Feast, to put on their new clothes and shoes. They placed them under their pillows and dreamed about wearing them all night.
In the village of Al-Kafrin, in the district of Haifa, the Feast meant customs and unique appearances. At night, families gathered after saying the Takbeer in the mosque. Later, they would collect the price of the sacrifices for those who had no money. In the morning, the men would go out to pray, while the women would go to visit the cemetery. They would distribute sweets and some money to those who read the Qur’an for the souls of the dead.

Popular Games

Young children used to be overwhelmed with joy. They would play popular games such as hopscotch, Tamamiyeh, and the two-inch bouncy balls. The girls would go to the swings made of ropes tied to trees. The boys were keen to play Al-Zarina (a mound of dirt that one team defends while the other tries to destroy it), Daqqa and El-Hah. They would make a ball from used strips of cloth.
The two-inch bouncy ball game is a game where a player puts his feet on top of each other, then puts his open palms on top. The other player has to jump without losing his balance, or abandoning the position of the feet and palms, to win.
Often, women in all Palestinian villages would cook the whole sacrifice on the first day of Feast, with a tradition called “al-Tatneej” due to the absence of refrigerators, in the old days. They would put the meat on the fire in copper pots, to drain it from remnant blood. They would add spices and seasonings to it and put it in glass containers. In this way, the meat would be preserved and would not spoil for many months. After cooking the meet , the women would start making Rice pudding , because the children were not fond of eating meat and crave for sweets. Earlier, the women would make Feast sweets. They would make cinnamons, Halaweh, Khawiya, and dry figs , in addition to dyeing Easter eggs, and making ma'amoul.

Sea and Solidarity

The children in coastal cities and towns would go to the beach in Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre, while those far away from the coast would be content to go to the springs in their towns, which have popular names such as: Al Hanan, Al Balad, and Al Natif.
According to narrators, the biggest difference between the Islamic and Christian feasts before the Nakba and nowadays is the strong good-neighborly relations, which was brother-like, besides exchanging food on Feasts and other occasions, and people keenness to bring the Feast’s joy to the underprivileged and give them meat of the Feast’s sacrifice, especially in villages famous for their livestock.
Women in the village of Shehma, in the Ramleh district, used to wear Palestinian dresses embroidered in black and white, and sometimes blue, red, and green. They would put headbands on their heads (like a veil). The men used to wear a dimmayeh and trousers. People used to go to the beach and make children ride on camels. They would camp on the beach for several days, eat, be happy, and play with water and sand.
Youssef Zaki used to work as a caller in the villages of the Haifa district. He used to disseminate news, like journalists today, to neighboring villages to inform them of social events, such as the advent of the month of fasting, the advent of a Feast, births, weddings, and deaths. He used to receive wages and gifts from the people for his work. Haifa was a different city, which provided an example of unity of Feasts and other occasions between Muslims and Christians.

Christmas in Jaffa

Before the Nakba, the people of Jaffa used to go to Bethlehem on Christmas. They used to sit near the garden of the Church of the Nativity and its yard. They used to bring their food with them: stuffed chicken, zucchini, grape leaves, and cooked rice covered with pine nuts, almonds and yogurt.
Buses used to transport the people of Jaffa, celebrating Christmas, to Bethlehem en-masse. After the prayers and the ceremonies, everyone would go outside the church to a yard dedicated to placing food that would be shared by all those present. After eating, people would drink coffee and eat sweets.
The feast pocket-money for girls was to buy what they wanted, while the boys preferred to have bicycles. Meanwhile, Christmas gifts were hung on a simple tree. The children would compete over the most beautiful and most valuable gifts.