SUNDOWN WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7: The long days of Ramadan are over, and Muslims give thanks to Allah for the strength to have fasted all month long—now, it’s time to celebrate! Islamic days start at sunset, and sunrise August 8 will open Eid ul-Fitr, a grand holiday with Muslims around the world awakening early, heading to a nearby mosque or in some cases an open square or field and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone “heads home” to visit family and friends, dine on sweet treats and wish all passersby a “Blessed Eid.” In some regions, festivities continue for three days.
Note: Dates always vary on Muslim festivals. Based on early calculations of moon sightings, it’s estimated that Eid ul-Fitr will start one day later in North America, at sunset on August 8. Even within North America, major Muslim centers often schedule more than one day of Eid ul-Fitr prayers to accommodate the faithful who are following slightly different versions of the calendar.
Prior to the start of Eid, donations are made to the poor in a ritual known as Zakat. One of the five Pillars of Islam, the purpose of Zakat at Eid ul-Fitr is for everyone—rich or poor—to equally enjoy a bounty at the end of Ramadan. (Check out photos of Bangladeshi Muslims shopping for Eid at BDNews24.com.) During this time parents also purchase small gifts for their children, called Eidi, and relatives save coins to give to children’s Eid-ey-yah, or allowance during the festivities of Eid ul-Fitr. (Wikipedia has details.) Children often spend Eid-ey-yah on admission to amusement parks, gardens or other public areas.
The morning of Eid starts early, with ritual washing, new clothes and a small breakfast, usually of dates. All Muslims, regardless of location, head to Muslim centers for Eid prayer, which must be performed in congregation. Muslims express a unified empathy for the poor and gratefulness to Allah, all the while facing the day with great happiness. (Learn more about Eid prayer from IslamiCity.)
A sermon follows, with a supplication asking God’s forgiveness and mercy for all living beings. Throughout the day, street processions entertain families; services draw visitors to mosques and public parks; large halls are rented for feasts and Muslims invite everyone, even non-Muslims, to partake in the celebratory meals.
EID UL-FITR AROUND THE WORLD
How does Eid differ around the world—and how is it the same?
In Egypt, Eid ul-Fitr lasts three days and families gather for neighborhood carnivals and sweet treats, like kahk (cookies filled with nuts and covered with powdered sugar). Some children ride decorated bikes around the community.
- In Cape Town, South Africa, many like to gather at Green Point for the moon sighting that will signal the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid. Every attendee brings a dish to pass at the shared meal for breaking the final fast day of Ramadan.
- In Asia, women and girls apply mehndi, or henna, on their hands and feet. After Eid prayers, some families visit graveyards to pray for the salvation of deceased family members. A common celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles, milk and dried fruit.
- In Saudi Arabia, hospitality comes first as shopkeepers hand out free gifts; strangers distribute gifts to children at random; well-off families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.
- In Afghanistan, the night before Eid is filled with chanting, oil lamps lighting the night and firecrackers. On the day of Eid ul-Fitr, families greet one another with “Happy Eid to you; may your fasting and prayers be accepted by God, and may you be counted among those who will go to the Hajj-pilgrimage.”
BAN ON YOUTUBE TO BE LIFTED AFTER EID UL-FITR
Reports are circling that the Pakistani government-imposed ban on YouTube may be lifted after Eid ul-Fitr, after the website was blocked for sacrilegious content in Pakistan. (Read more at Pakistan Today.) Hardly alone, countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and Iran have also blocked YouTube due to concerns about the website’s content.