Recently, a friend of mine welcomed his second son into the world here in Nablus. Last night, I had a chance to catch up with him for the first time since the baby was born, and as we strolled downtown, he suggested that we go into a bakery. Naturally, I agreed without a moment’s hesitation.
Sweets were piled high all around us, and a man behind the counter gave us a box to fill up and a plastic glove to wear while making our selections. My friend helped me choose, especially praising a cookie covered with black sesame seeds, which he said would boost my immune system. “Great!” I concurred. “So these are basically healthy, right?”
Somewhere between the black sesame and the chocolate croissants, he mentioned that he wanted to buy me the cookies to celebrate his new son. I was baffled, and tried to insist that I should be paying for the cookies since he was the one who just had a baby. “No,” he explained patiently. “This is halawan, a special kind of gift that we give when we have a new baby. It is tradition; I’ve been giving sweets all week. I’ve given out over 60 chocolates at work…This is how we celebrate here!”
After he gave me the cookies, I was floored. “In that case…you should have more babies!” I exclaimed gleefully. We both laughed, and continued on our way into the Nabulsi night.