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  • 10/23/2006

A Muslim Celebration

Eid Al-Fitr

in the Far East

Muslims have two major celebrations in the year. Both are called Eid (meaning “celebration”). Eid Al-Fitr, or the Celebration of Breaking the Fast, marks the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of fasting.

Eid Al-Fitr is the celebration that comes at the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of fasting, every day from dawn until sunset. The Islamic Calendar follows the moon and so each year, the dates are shifted forwards by about eleven days in the normal calendar. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, and is followed by Shawal. The first three days of Shawal are the Eid days.

When it is

The reason it differs from one country to another, is the calendar. It is a little bit complicated, but each month has either 29 or 30 days. On the 29th night of the month, people look for the new moon. If it is spotted, then the month has 29 days, and the next day is the start of a new month. If it is not spotted, the month continues for a 30th day, and then the new month starts. Today, astronomers can predict the months and phases of the moon very accurately, but it is still traditional for the moon to be spotted by someone. So, if the sky is overcast over an entire country, even if the moon is there, it can’t be seen and the month continues for one more day.

What it is

Eid Al-Fitr is all about celebrating the good things that we have received, God’s (Allah’s) bounty and our family and friends. Every household who can afford it,  must pay a form of tax in the days leading up to Eid. It is a very small amount, and is paid for each person in the family. Traditionally the tax was in the form of food, although most people now give the equivalent in money. The money or food is given to poor people, so that they can celebrate Eid, too. The tax is not collected by anyone, and no one is forced to pay it, but it is required as a religious act, and almost everyone pays.

The Celebration

Many people decorate their houses for Eid. This is rather an odd thing, since no-one is sure when Eid is, until the last minute, and so decorations are put up very late on the last day of the month.

Everyone has new clothes for Eid. In the last few nights of Ramadan it is almost impossible to get into the shops, as everyone is buying their clothes. A complete outfit is normal, right down to the shoes and even the headscarves for the women.

On the morning of Eid, everyone gets up very early to go to the prayers. These are special prayers, held only at Eid. They are held only in very big mosques, or in large open areas, such as football stadiums. They are held about 80 minutes after sunrise, so in the summer months it is very early.

After the prayers, everyone goes home to eat breakfast and then the celebrations really begin. It isn’t common for children to receive gifts. Instead they receive money. The money should be in the form of a brand new bank note or coins. The amount given is small, usually in the region of about $3, but still they get plenty. Everyone who visits the children, or everyone whom they visit, gives them the gift of money. In a large extended family, with lots of friends, children can end up with a small fortune!

Sometime around midmorning people start to go out visiting. They visit neighbors and friends in the morning. At each visit special cakes are eaten, and the children receive their money. The visits are very short as there are plenty to make. Dinner is spent with family. The traditional meal varies from country to country, the only standard thing is the special cakes. Each day of the holiday is spent with a different branch of the family, so that everyone gets visited. In the evening, the visits start up again. This goes on for three days, but money is normally only given to the children on the first two days.

In between visiting, people make trips out into the streets. Many streets have a sort of fair going, with music, fireworks, kids' games and much more. Here the children get to spend their money. They buy candy and toys. Everyone has great fun, and the children are always disappointed when it is over. The adults, on the other hand, are usually worn out and glad of the rest!

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