What’s Ileya Like For A Nigerian Woman?

July 20, 2021

Ileya, also called Eid-el Kabir or ram Sallah is a great time to connect with family and friends over juicy pieces of fried ram. As with other things, women have a specific experience of Ileya that is often missing from the conversation. In this article, eight Nigerian women talk about celebrating Ileya. 

picture of a ram's head

Farida, 26 

I’ve spent most of the Eid holidays alone, and I no longer remember what it was like to spend it with family. I like being alone. I miss my family sometimes but I love that I can plan my own day and decide if I want to sleep in or hang out with friends. There is no pressure to do chores or cook or interact with relatives I’m not interested in engaging with. 

Fatimah, 30

Ileya, for me, is a day of festivities. Before I got married I used to get nagged about not being interested in supervising the cooking. This will be my third Eid as a married woman. The first one, we spent it with an aunt. Last year, we had guests over. I supervised the caterers and attended to the guests. It was nothing overwhelming. 

For this Eid, I contracted a caterer and my domestic assistant did the final shopping today. My husband supervises the slaughtering and cutting of the ram as well as drinks while I supervise cooking and serving. It’s pretty chill. 

Nene, 23 

My favourite thing about Ileya is the meat but it comes with a lot of work —  I am always tired. I can’t just go out to celebrate with my friends because I’m expected to be at home cooking and cleaning. 

Hauwa, 23

Ileya is exciting for me as a woman. I especially like the beauty rituals that come with it — henna, making new hair and wearing brand new clothes. In my house, we slaughter two rams and one cow. You can imagine the amount of work that goes into it, but even that is fun. 

The entire family gathers in the backyard to share the work. My dad, brother and uncles do the slaughtering, flaying and cutting the meat.  My mum, my sister and I cook the food. While we are working, my parents tell us stories and there’s a lot of laughter. Sometimes though, it gets hectic even though we hire extra hands. I remember one year we were so overwhelmed with work during the first day of Ileya that we didn’t even have time to dress up and look good until the next day. 

Lamide, 26

When I was younger, Ileya meant work. We couldn’t afford to outsource the cooking so we did ourselves. By the end of the day, we would all be so tired and stressed. 

But after I turned 21, things got slightly better. I had a say in how much work I was willing to do. It’s still a lot of cooking and cleaning but it is better than it was. For example, for this Ileya, I am supervising the cooking and washing plates if need be. We have a caterer that comes to help. My favourite thing about Ileya is the gisting with older aunties that come around. 

Muslimah, 23 

When I was young, Ileya was the time I got to visit my aunty and spend time with her children. As I grew older, Ileya changed. Now, I assume the role of a full-time chef, cooking for the whole family. I spend the entire day in the kitchen from morning till night — I only get to take a break during prayer time. 

My favourite thing about Ileya is that every member of my family gets to bond with each other. I am from a polygamous family so Ileya is a special time for us because we get to bond with each other. My step-siblings and their children come to visit and we gist and talk about everything.  

I am not spending Ileya with my family this year because I am in school and I am pissed about that because no matter how stressful that day is for me, I still love to celebrate it with my family.

Zee, 24

I always look forward to Eid because it was one of the few times growing up that my dad wouldn’t object to me wearing makeup. I loved the clothes and the henna. I also love how excited I always was helping my mum put on her necklace and doing my eyebrows at the same time. 

I absolutely hated the later part of the day when visitors start coming and my sister and I were expected to serve and entertain guests (often older men). In the kitchen, we had to tend to the ever-growing mountains of plates and in the living room, there were so many pointless conversations waiting to happen. 

Hadiza, 31

Ileya is a good time for me. A lot of people like the party and pomp of Eid but I try to keep it quiet for me and my daughter because sometimes it’s just two of us. I guess all the stress of Ileya growing up has made me too tired to do anything big. I outsource the cutting and cleaning of the ram when I cook. Other times, I eat out and sleep for the rest of the day.

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QUIZ: How Will You Spend Sallah?

family gathered around food

Will you spend sallah with your family or will you spend it hunting for meat?

Take the quiz to find out.

Mariam Sule

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