Muslims around the world celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr. Translated literally, Eid al-Fitr yields something like: “The Celebration of Breaking the Fast.”
Traditionally, it is a three-day holiday, but in some Muslim majority countries they extend it to a week or longer. It is a very festive occasion, as people wear new clothes and eat all kinds of special foods that they have not been able to eat during the month of fasting.
Communal prayers are a significant part of the Eid, with thousands of people meeting in mosques, large public squares, or fields on the morning of the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Sunni and Shia traditions have developed distinct forms of special Eid prayers for these occasions. After the prayers, the feasting and celebrating begins.
There are two main Islamic holidays celebrated by Muslims of all sects and affiliations. The first in the Islamic calendar is Eid al-Fitr. It is also known as Eid al-Saghir (“The Small Feast”) in contrast to Eid al-Kabeer (“The Large Feast”) which is Eid al-Adha, the second major Islamic holiday. Despite being “The Small Feast,” many consider Eid al-Fitr to be the most important.
Muslims often view Eid al-Fitr as something purely spiritual. It is the day when Muslims thank Allah for having given them the strength and endurance to observe the fast and obey his commandment throughout the month of Ramadan. This sense of having successfully completed an important task demanded by Allah brings happiness across the Muslim world.
Muslims all over the world eagerly await Eid al-Fitr and consider it a holy and happy occasion. It helps Muslims feel close to each other and spreads joy and love to all people who come into contact with a Muslim.
Following the large gathering for Eid prayers in the mornings, the rest of the Festival is usually spent visiting family and friends and reminding each other of Allah’s abundant blessings upon everyone. In many traditions, people take time to visit the tombs of their relatives and friends to remember them.
Throughout the three days of the Eid, everyone greets each other with their language’s equivalent of Eid Mubarak! – “Have a blessed feast!” This festival is celebrated in a huge variety of ways around the world that often remind Christians of Christmas celebrations. There is a lot of gift giving, time spent with family and friends, and a sense that one is full of gratitude to Allah throughout the holiday.
Each Muslim culture has its own special Eid al-Fitr food. Many spend hours shopping and buying new things. Muslims clearly know how to celebrate – thousands of people throng the shopping districts, fill the parks, and visit each other in their homes. Everyone stops working (except for the women who prepare all the special food!) and there is a sense of joy and celebration.