The religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, or “Festival of breaking the fast”, is one of the two major holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world. In the United States, Eid al-Fitr 2021 begins on the evening of Wednesday, May 12 and ends on the evening of Thursday, May 13.
Also known as “lesser Eid,” Eid al-Fitr commemorates the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. An occasion for special prayers, family visits, gifts and charity, it takes place over one to three days, starting from the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar.
Although some Muslims observe other special days throughout the year, including the start of the new year according to the Islamic calendar and the day of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth, the two Eid are the only holidays celebrated by all. the Muslim community around the world. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Ramadan fast, while Eid al-Adha (“Feast of Sacrifice”) takes place at the end of the annual pilgrimage season.
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, in which dates are calculated based on lunar phases, and each new month begins when the crescent moon appears in the sky. Because the 12-month lunar year is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian solar calendar (the 365-day calendar used in the western world), Islamic months and holidays fall in different seasons depending on the year.
During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, almost all Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset and to refrain from smoking, drinking (including water), and engaging in sexual activities. during the day. Ramadan is the month in which the Prophet Muhammad received the teachings of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, as a guide for humanity and as a means of judging between good and evil. Fasting during Ramadan, known as Sawm, is one of the five pillars, the basic principles essential to the Islamic faith.
Due to the lunar calendar, Ramadan and other months fall in different seasons depending on the year. During their lifetime, Muslims all over the world have the opportunity to experience fasting on long summer days, short winter days and everything in between.
As in a pilgrimage, fasting during Ramadan takes people out of their normal way of life and forces them to engage in solemn contemplation and examination. Experiencing hunger and thirst is supposed to make people aware of the sufferings of the poor and better appreciate what they have.
Importance of Eid al-Fitr
After a month of prayer, devotion and self-control, Muslims celebrate the fulfillment of their sacred duties during Ramadan with the start of Eid al-Fitr, or the Fast Breaking Festival. The festival is a national holiday in many countries with large Muslim populations. Eid al-Fitr celebrations typically last three days, one day shorter than Eid al-Adha celebrations. For this reason, Eid al-Fitr is often referred to as “Little Eid” or “Little Eid”. Eid al-Adha, known as “Grand Eid”, is considered the more important holiday of the two.
During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims take part in special morning prayers, greet each other with formal hugs and offer each other the greetings of “Eid Mubarak” or “Have a blessed Eid”. They get together with family and friends, give games and gifts to children, and cook and eat special meals, including sweet dishes like baklava or Turkish delight in Turkey, date pastries and cookies in Saudi Arabia and in Iraq and bint al sahn (honey cake) in Yemen.
Another of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat, or giving to those in need. Muslims often prepare for Eid al-Fitr by donating money to charity so that less fortunate families can also enjoy the festivities. In addition to charity, Muslims are also encouraged to give and ask for forgiveness during Eid al-Fitr, and look forward to the opportunity to fast again during Ramadan the following year.
Differences between Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha
The second major holiday in the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha, takes place at the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage made by millions of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. According to the Quran, the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) was ready to sacrifice his son to God (Allah), but God accepted the sacrifice of an animal instead. Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.
The holiday celebrations typically last four days and are similar to Eid al-Fitr, except Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha traditionally recognize the occasion by slaughtering an animal for meat. The meat is then shared with family and friends, much of it given to the less fortunate.
Ken Chitwood, “What is Eid and how do Muslims celebrate it?” The Conversation, June 3, 2019.
How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated around the world? BBC Bitesize.
Christine Huda Dodge, The book Understanding Islam (Adams Media, 2003).