Laylat al-Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims mark holiest night, end of Ramadan

Muslim man prayer

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

SUNSET TUESDAY, MAY 19 and SUNSET SATURDAY, MAY 23: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

An Eid Unlike Any Other

Cupcakes decorated fancy for Eid

Cupcakes for Eid. Photo by The Baking Tray, courtesy of Flickr

“Even the oldest people living today cannot recall a Ramadan like this,” Algerian journalist Larbi Megari told us this week via Skype from his home. He followed up by email with this account of the startling reality of an Eid without crowds.

“Officially, we are hearing there will be no public Eid prayers in Algeria this week—and in most of the Arab countries. Authorities are asking people to hold Eid prayers at home, which is difficult. Eid prayers are supposed to include a Khutbah, and not everyone is capable of delivering such a message at home.”

Though rare, some countries—such as Iran and Pakistan—have allowed the resumption of communal prayers; however, strict social distancing measures will be enforced.

A RAMADAN IN QUARANTINE: SOCIAL ASPECTS

In The New York Times, Amelia Nierenberg reported on Breaking the Ramadan Fast in Quarantine. She explained: “For many Muslim families, Ramadan is one of the most social months of the year. … It is a month of meals eating with intention, ending in a joyous celebration: Eid al-Fitr, which begins the evening of May 23.”

Interested in 16 tips for celebrating at home? This article suggests ways to make Eid in quarantine special.

Participate in a 13-day virtual celebration of Eid: Check out this site, hosted by Asia Society’s Texas location, for craft how-to videos, cooking videos, read-alongs and more, part of the free online programming.

Still, in spite of virtual celebrations and “gatherings,” Muslims the world over are experiencing often painful interruptions in lifelong traditions. As Eid is a very social holiday—and a major component of the observance is time in a mosque—Muslims are gearing up for a very different Eid this year.

Empty mosque Eid white pillars

Empty mosques will be common this Eid al-Fitr. Photo courtesy of Pxfuel

From Jerusalem, Adam Rasgon reported: A Ramadan Unlike Any Since the Middle Ages. In The Times, he wrote: “The last time Muslim worshipers were kept out of the Aqsa Mosque compound throughout the entire month of Ramadan was when crusaders controlled Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.”

Reporting from Algeria, Larbi explains, “Authorities have announced that there will be no visits to hospitals during Eid day. We have the habit in Algeria of visiting hospitals where there are sick people who are far away from their families, especially here in the capital where the biggest hospitals are receiving sick people from other towns and cities.

“This year, there will be a total curfew during the two-day Eid. Authorities have forbidden family visits that usually take place during these two days. The religious-affairs ministry even issued a fatwa forbidding family visits during Eid.

“One of our favorite traditions is sharing sweets and cakes for Eid—but we won’t be making them this year for the simple reason that no one will visit us at home to give them these sweets. So many things are different this year. Usually, people wear new clothes for the Eid—so important that new clothes are a symbol of Eid. But, this year, shops are closed. The message widely shared on social media this year is: Instead of wearing new clothes, put on your best clothes.

“Finally, we cannot remember our loved ones with cemetery visits, which is an important habit in Algeria during Eid. Authorities do not want public gatherings—even in our cemeteries.”

Dates Muslims bowl

Photo courtesy of PxHere

‘EID SA’ID!’
(HAPPY EID!)

That’s the way to greet Muslim friends, if you care to follow the traditional custom of wishing friends, neighbors and co-workers the best in this festive time.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed, and Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed.

While adherents typically would spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends and attending carnivals and fireworks displays, social distancing measures will prevent most of these types of activities in 2020.

THE END OF RAMADAN AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, it is significant to note that, unlike most Muslim holidays—which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year—the two Eid holidays (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr) are always commemorated universally.

Eid Sa’id! Muslims celebrate festival breaking the Ramadan fast

Group of people kneeling in white and red clothing

Click on the image above to watch a video of a student-based program for Eid al-Fitr. Courtesy of Vimeo

SUNSET MONDAY, JUNE 3: Sunrise-to-sunset fasting has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to the month of Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. (Eid Sa’id! is a common greeting, meaning, happy Eid!) (Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday alternatively spelled Eid ul-Fitr, as well.)

From the United Arab Emirates: UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has announced that private sector workers will have four days for Eid Al Fitr in 2019 (one day less than public sector workers). For those in the private sector, the holiday will start on June 3 and end on either Thursday, June 6, or Friday, June 7, depending on moon sighting (the public sector holiday begins on June 2).

Group of people on knees in front of mosque

Iranians in prayer on Eid al-Fitr. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

EID AL-FITR: FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field). In the mosques, open squares and fields, Muslims pray in unison; following prayers, feasting commences.

Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and joyfully greets passersby. In many regions, festivities will continue for three days; in some regions, festivities can last up to nine days.

Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and many adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

AROUND THE WORLD: FROM THE UK TO ASIA TO AFRICA

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday.

Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are commemorated universally.

In the UK, some of the largest festivals of the year will take place for the Eid holidays.

Did you know?
In Egypt, Eid ul-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, a celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Looking for Eid recipes?
Sweet and savory selections are available courtesy of the BBC. For sweet recipes, check out NPR.org. For even more, try the New York Times.

Care to read more?

As 2019 dawned, we made a commitment as a publishing house to help combat bigotry by reaching out to our Muslim neighbors in a friendly way.

GET THE BOOK—Please consider buying a copy of the new book Our Muslim Neighbors and become a positive model of change in your community.

Recently, author Victor Begg was featured in an online interfaith dialogue in Florida. Here’s a link to that inspiring conversation.

Want to see all the holiday stories?

Just remember www.InterfaithHolidays.com 

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Laylat al Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims observe holiest night, end of Ramadan

Group of Muslims kneeling in prayer, daytime, outdoors

Muslims in Iran holding Eid al-Fitr prayer. Photo by M. Hasan Miremadi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY, JUNE 10 and SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 14: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

Mosque lit up at night, people walking out of mosque and nearby

Photo by Sharonang, courtesy of pixabay

I’TIKAF & THE FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance is ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

THE END OF RAMADAN: HAPPY EID!

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2018, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on June 14 will open Eid al-Fitr.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. The proper greeting for this festival is “Eid Sa’id!” (Happy Eid!)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken 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 visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days or more.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

From ground, rides at a fair

Eid al-Fitr fairs and festivals, such as this one in Amsterdam, are common. Photo by Charles Roffey, courtesy of Flickr

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

EID AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Eid ul-Fitr: Muslims worldwide joyously mark end of Ramadan

White mosque, blue sky

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

SUNSET SATURDAY, JUNE 24: Ramadan has ended, and Muslims give thanks for the strength to have fasted all month long—and now, it’s time to celebrate! Islamic days start at sunset, and sunrise of June 25 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: Muslim festival dates vary globally, and 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 June 25. 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.

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. A sermon follows, with a supplication asking God’s forgiveness and mercy for all living beings.

Did you know? The length of Eid celebrations varies by country: in Saudi Arabia, events last 23 days! This helpful chart breaks down Eid by country.

Woman dancing Muslim dress

A Muslim woman dances during Eid celebrations in Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo, by Senior Airman Felicia Juenke

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. During this joyous time, parents often give their children small gifts, called Eidi, and relatives save coins to give to children’s Eid-ey-yah, or “allowance,” during the festivities of Eid ul-Fitr. Children often spend Eid-ey-yah on admission to amusement parks, gardens or other public areas.

EID UL-FITR AROUND THE WORLD

How does Eid differ around the world—and how is it the same?

  • 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.

NEWS: Saudi Arabia will reportedly extend the Eid holiday by one week this year. In recent years, government employees were given a 10-day break for Eid. Worldwide, many Muslims take vacations during this celebratory time. (Read the story at U.S. News & World Report.)

Ramadan: Muslims fast during ‘longest days’ of the calendar year

Woman stands below grand ceiling, hands raised, looking at ceiling, in dress and headscarf

A Muslim woman offers a Ramadan prayer. Photo by Thamer Al-Hassan, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET FRIDAY, MAY 26: As a crescent moon appears and is spotted around the globe, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims—nearly a quarter of Earth’s population—begin the month of Ramadan. (Note: Starting dates in communities around the world may vary by location and by method of calculation.)

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations. The majority of our readers live in North America—and, this year, the Islamic Society of North America, says the Eid will begin on Sunday June 25.

As Ramadan moves slowly around the Gregorian calendar, 2017 will cover some of the “longest” days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—which, for observant Muslims, equates to more hours of daytime fasting. This year, Ramadan will incorporate the summer solstice, on June 20—the “longest” day of the year for those living in the North.

A GROWING POPULATION

This spring, the Pew Research Center’s analysis of global religious trends reports that—based on worldwide patterns of childbirth—Islam is likely to emerge as the world’s most rapidly growing religion in the years ahead. You can download the complete report here in PDF format. That Pew report is the source of our reference above to 1.8 billion as the world’s current Muslim population. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion with 2.3 billion adherents, Pew reports.

MORE THAN FASTING …

The Beauty of Ramadan by Najah Bazzy front cover (1)

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Najah Bazzy, author of The Beauty of Ramadanreminds readers in her opening pages that Ramadan is about far more than denial of food and water during daylight hours. Bazzy, a nationally known expert on cross-cultural healthcare, covers many of the health-related issues in her book. But she calls on a traditional text credited to the Prophet Muhammad for the deeper meaning of this special month. In addition to fasting, prayer and Quran study:

Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders. Have pity on those younger than you and be kind toward your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are forbidden and your ears from such sounds as should not be heard. Be kind to orphans.

Bazzy’s book explains much more about the rich experience of this month for Muslim families. It also clearly explains a lot about the month’s practices, making the book helpful for educators, anyone in public service and neighbors or co-workers with Muslim friends.

FASTING & IFTAR

Fasting is a tradition in nearly all of the world’s great faiths—but the word “fasting” can refer to many different forms of this ancient tradition. In some traditions, giving up meat or other kinds of foods is a fast. In other groups, a fast may be the elimination of a single meal—or it may refer to avoiding food, but not liquids.

Three dates in wooden bowl

Three dates are traditionally consumed at the end of each day’s fast during Ramadan. Photo courtesy of YouTube

Muslims observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. All food and drink (including water) is prohibited. Meanwhile, prayer is increased, as is reading from the Quran. According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Many Muslim communities around the world invite special vocal interpreters of the Quran to come to mosques and chant the sacred text, night after night, until the entire holy book is completed.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset—with the iftar.

Three dates customarily break the fast each day of Ramadan, and an iftar meal is often an occasion for social gatherings, large feasts and buffet-style hosting. Occasionally, Muslims describe the night-time iftar tradition as “like a series of Thanksgiving dinners,” because friends and family often visit each other during the nights of Ramadan—and favorite dishes frequently are prepared for these feasts.

A lantern with colored glass on each side, reflecting colors onto walls around it

A Ramadan lantern. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ZAKAT GIVING & ‘NIGHT OF POWER’

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, sometimes translated as “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory practice.

Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Around the Islamic world, traditions vary for identifying the date of Laylat al-Qadr—though it is generally believed to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Do you know Muslim friends, neighbors or co-workers? Michigan State University’s Joe Grimm reports on an easy and friendly way to reach out during Ramadan.

RAMADAN NEWS 2017

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Eid al-Fitr: Muslims worldwide greet Ramadan’s end with festivals, vacations

Mosque with crowd under blue sky

Eid prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 6: Eid Sa’id! (Happy Eid!)

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2016, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on July 6 will open Eid ul-Fitr. (Spellings vary and you may see the holiday alternatively spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well.)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken 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 visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days; in Turkey, this year, festivities will last nine days.

Table set fancy with bowls of dates, wraps, spices and cookies

A traditional Moroccan feast for Eid al-Fitr. Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, courtesy of Flickr

Fast fact: In 2016, Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere fasted during some of the “longest” days of the calendar year, as Ramadan fell during the weeks surrounding the June solstice. In some areas of the UK, fasting lasted up to 19 hours in a day. (Of course, Muslims in the Southern Hemisphere enjoyed relatively short fasting periods this year.)

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram to name just few.

AROUND THE GLOBE

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally. In recognition of this principal festival, the U.S. Postal Service recently unveiled its 2016 Eid stamp; Philadelphia recently has, as New York did, added the two Eid holidays to its public school calendar. In the UK, some of the largest festivals of the year will take place for the Eid holidays. Since 1987, Australia’s Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair has drawn tens of thousands of attendees annually.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid ul-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Women stand with their backs to the camera, wearing headscarves, at a crowded beach

For many Muslims, the Eid holiday break is a time for visiting family or taking a vacation. Photo by United Nations Photo, courtesy of Flickr

2016 NEWS AND EID RECIPES

Workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could receive up to five days off for the Eid holidays, this year, news publications report. As the holiday break this year will coincide with summer school holidays, experts are predicting high travel rates.

Dubai expects almost 2 million travelers to use the Dubai International Airport over the weekends starting July 1 and July 8. Among the most popular destinations: Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Armenia and Sarajevo, Bosnia.

With Turkey’s nine-day Eid holiday break, this year, hotel occupancy rates will increase to over 80 percent, report news publications. Though foreign arrivals have decreased, travel within the country is expected to rise.

Bank Indonesia has prepared money exchange posts across the country ahead of the Eid holidays, and the central bank has prepared Rp 160.4 trillion in various denominations, reported Tempo.co. In many countries, spending increases dramatically before and during the Eid holidays.

Looking for Eid recipes? Sweet and savory selections are available courtesy of the BBC. For sweet recipes, check out NPR.org. For even more, try the New York Times.

Eid al-Fitr: Muslims celebrate Feast of the Breaking of the (Ramadan) Fast

Thousands of white-clad Muslims on floor of giant building, pillars among crowd, tiers filled with devotees

Muslims gather for Eid al-Fitr prayers at Istiqlal Mosque in Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET FRIDAY, JULY 17: An entire month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting has ended for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with the joyous festival of Eid al-Fitr.

The beginning date of Shawwaal—the 10th month of the Islamic calendar—varies slightly by location, as the date is determined by the sighting of the new moon. Many families excitedly await news of a new moon from Saudi Arabia, when an official sighting is declared from the land of Muhammad; others look to scholars or predictions closer to home. The atmosphere of revelry and celebration overflows out of mosques, homes and neighborhoods worldwide.

The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE, and today, Muslims everywhere wear their best clothing for special prayers, processions and elaborate shared meals.

Did you know? The common greetings on Eid al-Fitr are Eid Mubarak (“Blessed Eid”) and Eid Sa’id (“Happy Eid”).

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, Bajram and Lesser Eid name just few. Though the month of Shawwaal officially begins just after sunset, most of the customary rituals of Eid al-Fitr begin several hours later.

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. (Wikipedia has details.) Perfume is sometimes worn for the occasion, and a small breakfast—usually dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Muslim tradition holds that Eid prayers should be offered in congregation, and so this morning, Muslims fill mosques, parks, halls and even open fields for joyous prayer services. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

Did you know? Eid al-Fitr is referred to as “Lesser Eid,” while Eid al-Adha—a separate holiday—is “Greater Eid.”

Tradition states that when Muhammad migrated from Mecca and arrived in Medina, he found the people there to be celebrating two special days, set aside for cheer and leisure. At this, Muhammad declared that the Almighty designated two alternate days for these purposes: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

FROM ARABIA TO AUSTRALIA: EID AL-FITR ACROSS THE GLOBE

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated for one to three days, and in many Muslim communities, a central activity is the Eid prayers. Where possible, Muslims walk to the location of Eid prayers, and many use separate routes to and from the prayer grounds. Eid prayers are followed by a sermon, along with a request for God’s forgiveness and mercy. In turn, Muslims are urged to forgive others and put aside differences.

Desserts, sweet, sesame seeds, dried noodles, cream and nuts

Sweet treats are commonly consumed during the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Photo by Dani Armengol Garreta, courtesy of Flickr

In Saudi Arabia, it is not uncommon for shopkeepers to offer gifts with purchase prior to Eid, as a display of generosity. In some areas, men purchase large bags of rice and other basic food staples to leave anonymously on the doorsteps of the poor. In major cities, enormous fireworks shows take place each night of Eid celebrations. (View a slideshow of 2014 Eid activites here.) Egyptians observe Eid al-Fitr with days off from school and work, visiting family and spending days at local parks, theaters, beaches and carnivals. Television programs focus on Eid al-Fitr with movie marathons and live interviews featuring Eid commentaries. In Indonesia, one of the largest temporary human migrations takes place with Lebaran, the custom of workers returning to their home town to join in the revelries with their families. Since 1987, Australia has hosted the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair in Sydney, catering to tens of thousands of attendees.

NEWS: A SCHOOL HOLIDAY, DATES & A $100 BILLION INDUSTRY

Last March, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio officially declared Islam’s two most-observed holidays—Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha—public school holidays. (Huffington Post reported.) The duo was the first religious addition to the academic calendar since the Jewish High Holy Days, in 1960. Throughout Ramadan and during the Eid al-Fitr holidays, dates are one of the most commonly consumed foods: Muslims eat the fruit alone, as part of a sweet dessert or even incorporated into a savory dish. Learn all about the variety and uses of dates—plus access a wide array of tantalizing recipes—in this article from the New York Times. As experts estimate that Muslim spending in America comprises a $100 billion industry, top designers like Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY are taking to the runway with Muslim-inspired designs for Ramadan and Eid. (Read more here.) The largest celebrations take place during the Eid al-Fitr holidays, though industry specialists are advising incoming brands to understand the holidays before trying to “break in” to the market.

Looking for both savory and sweet recipes for Eid al-Fitr? Check out the BBC.