My Family Does Holidays Better Than The Muslims

The Frebergs do things a little differently…

Time To Read: 7 mins | June 5, 2017

On Christmas morning, my family celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus with cocktails. And when I say ‘morning’, I mean between the hours of midnight and 4am. This usually results in presents not being opened until early afternoon, after everyone’s finally pulled themselves out of bed, and only then after mimosas.

Thanksgiving is a blood sport. While we of course observe the regular traditions – namely overeating – holiday dinner is sandwiched between hyper-competitive games of poker, liar’s dice, Cranium and Risk. You may think your family gets heated over board games, but you haven’t seen the Frebergs throw dice across the room after putting down a few gin & tonics. Helmets aren’t required, but recommended.

Now, I admit that hunting Easter eggs with cocktails in hand sounds like a brilliant idea, but we’ve never done it. By the time the kids in the family are old enough to drink, they’ve (hopefully) stopped believing that a giant rabbit spent all night sneaking through mom’s petunias. So instead, because we’ve been drinking since we woke up, the family always has lobster for dinner (like Jesus would have wanted) and we have an unspoken contest to see who can shoot chips of shell the furthest with a mallet.

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All this is to say, my family does holidays a little different than your average American household, and a hell of a lot different than the Muslims do.

I knew I was coming to Morocco during Ramadan. I even kind of knew what Ramadan was, a month-long holiday commemorating Muhammad receiving the Quran. Which, OK, I understand is religious in nature, but so is Mardi Gras. In my experience — see above — all holidays are a party.

Not the case here. Turns out that, for an entire month, Muslims are expected to abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset. There’s no smoking or alcohol allowed whatsoever, and sex is strictly forbidden. So it’s bizarro Mardi Gras, as it were.

Now I should point out that the locals don’t expect foreigners observe these rules. You can walk down the street with a bottle of water or a snack and no one’s going to throw a fit. I imagine munching a bag of Hot Cheetos in a Muslim’s face wouldn’t go over well – and I’ve been told having a cigarette in the street is a far more aggressive transgression, as the Islamic smokers are seriously pissy on account of the withdrawals – but otherwise, it’s live and let live.

Except that all the liquor stores are shut down. Even the grocery stores have their alcohol sections sealed off. This I was not aware of, since previously the big chains would continue to sell to travelers so long as they produced a passport. The rules apparently changed last year; now everyone, regardless of faith, is barred from buying for roughly six weeks.

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So thanks to Allah, I chose the least fun month possible to visit Morocco.

But 48 hours in and, really, I’ve found the situation’s surprisingly charming. Like I said, it’s not as if foreigners are expected to become anorexic celibates as well. And because the rest of the world is better informed than I, most travelers choose other times of the year to visit, so the region is much less crowded than normal. Minus the availability of beer – which I concede is a big one – it’s a bit like going to Disneyland when the park is only half full.

There is one other drawback though. I noticed it on my very first day, but only put the pieces together after a chat with the manager of my riad (a traditional house with a central courtyard that these days cater to visitors). We were discussing the weather (miserably hot), local food (insanely good), and Batman (Moroccan’s love him) when somehow the conversation shifted to an aggressive run-in I’d had with a locals on day one. His next question, oddly, was what time this happened.

“Around 4pm, why?”

He laughed. “Don’t go out in the afternoon during Ramadan. It’s hot and everyone’s hungry.”

Apparently this is a known thing, and it makes sense. If your last meal was eight hours ago, you know you don’t get to eat again until nighttime, and you’ve not had a sip of water all day – not to mention a cigarette or shot – you get a little cranky. Add to that the 100+ degree heat of summer and lack of blowjobs and you become downright ornery.

Ramadan, then, legitimately makes Muslims hangry. Which leads me to conclude that I infinitely prefer my family’s way of handling holidays.

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photo: what the skyline of marrakech, morocco would look like if you were falling over

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.
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