Eid e-Qurban, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which fell in November this year, is when wealthy people make big shopping trips to change their house decorations and show their relatives how rich they are. But among Afghan people, many are poor and cannot even feed their children. They watch all this buying and wish they could at least give their children new clothes for the holy day, but they cannot. Sometimes a small number of rich people, in order to feel proud of themselves, donate something for poor people.

One Saturday, I went to a market to interview people about their wishes and plans on the days of Eid. Rich people were saying, “We bought new furniture to welcome our guests.” One said, “We moved to another new house that has many things.” One woman said, “I bought clothes for my daughter and spent hundreds of dollars.”

When I left the market, I saw a child who was 7 years old, but his face looked like an old man’s. The voice of the disappointed came from his mouth; his clothes were dirty, and his feet very dirty, covered by old sandals. It was very cold, but he stood there just watching people shopping for Eid. He was small but, as I learned, his responsibility was much more than his size.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“My name is Matin.”

“What do you do here?”

“I came here to see if shoppers would give me money, but I have been here since 6 a.m. and I did not receive any donations,” he said, adding that the cold weather gave him a red face and nose. He was hopeless for his own future, thinking only about how to find food for his family.

“Do you know about Eid?” I asked him.

He smiled. “Umm, Eid! Yes, I know it is for rich people, not for us. We are very poor; we do not have a house to live in, and our life is very different in all ways, so we do not know about the real Eid.”

Another man was pulling a cart of dried bread for sale. His son, only two years old, lay on a bread bag in the cart. The child did not have warm clothes or shoes. He was asleep but felt very cold. His father was trying to find more dried bread to sell so he could feed his family.

Fatimah, a 30-year-old Herat resident, agreed with Matin. “This Eid is not for the poor, but for the rich and those who enjoy power and have money,” she told me. “If I am not able to treat a guest coming to my house on Eid day, is it Eid for me? I don’t think so. This Eid is for ministers, businessmen, commanders and their associates, but not for ordinary and poor Afghans.”

How can we ignore everything and just think about our own happiness on Eid?

As a resident of Afghanistan, I want to deliver my message for the holy period: Eid is a good opportunity for us. We Afghan should unite to make a better Afghanistan. That is what this day is for. This is a day to forgive each other. Let us forget new, expensive clothes; let us wear ordinary clothes but see a child in warm clothes.

Every Eid, I take the money I have set aside for the holy day and I divide it into three parts. Sometimes I donate the money to three different children. I am much happier, because I can feel Eid with the poorest people. Every one of us can do it. It would be very nice to think about those children, like Matin, who cannot have a full meal on the holiday. In the end, I want all Afghanistan to celebrate Eid as a time of hope.

By Seeta

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images