CAIRO - As Muslim children around the world get new clothes and sweets for `Eid Al-Fitr, Gaza children find themselves compelled to work longer hours to capitalize on the opportunity to make extra money during the Muslim feast.
Neither I nor my brothers bought clothes or stuff [for `Eid] since there is no time or money for joy or happiness in our house, 12-year-old Ahmad Hussain told Gulf News on Saturday, August 18.
`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.
Gazans along with the majority of Muslim countries will celebrate the feast on Sunday, August 19, marking the end of the holy fasting month.
During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.
After special prayers to mark `Eid Al-Fitr, festivities and merriment start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).
Across the Muslim world, it is also a tradition to buy new clothes and toys for children before Eid Al Fitr.
Candies and other sweets are also given as gifts.
However, the case was not the same for Hussain who stands in Al Saha square, one of the biggest markets in the Gaza Strip, from dawn to dusk to sell his treats.
We can barely provide [for our] necessities, he said.
`Eid Under Siege
The absence of `Eid Al-Fitr joy was not an exception, being another version of previous feasts for Hussain.
I actually don't remember celebrating any previous `Eids, he told Gulf News on Saturday.
I've always had to work on Eid because my family is very poor. My father does labor work only a couple days a week.
Israel has clamped a severe blockade on Gaza since Hamas was voted to power in Gaza in 2006 and the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in a cross-border raid.
The siege was further tightened after Hamas assumed full control of the strip in 2007.
The crippling siege has badly worsened livelihood in the impoverished seaside strip.
The situation further deteriorated after Israel launched a three-week deadly offensive in late 2008, killing more than 1,400 people and injured thousands and left the strip in tatters.
The siege leaves most Gazans cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty.
Falling victims to Israeli siege, children stepped in to help their struggling families, selling trinkets and candies on the streets.
Last year a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said that nearly 50,000 children are working in the Gaza Strip.
I have four younger siblings to support, Hussain said.