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Eid al-Fitr

When is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr means festival of breaking the fast and it occurs immediately after Ramadan on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month in the Islamic calendar. It begins with the first sighting of the new crescent moon in the sky and in Muslim countries the festival lasts for three days, while elsewhere the celebrations take place on one day.

When it is translated from the Islamic calendar to the Gregorian calendar, the date of Eid al-Fitr falls at different times throughout the year. Each year it is eleven days earlier than the previous year.

Treats for Eid

What is Eid al-Fitr?

As Eid al-Fitr follows directly after Ramadan’s month of fasting, it is hardly surprising that as well as being a spiritual celebration, Eid is a time for families and friends to gather together and feast on delicious food and sweets.

In the morning Muslims gather for the special Eid prayer known as Salaat al-Eid. Huge numbers of people attend and the prayer is traditionally performed in an open space rather than in a mosque. Before the Eid prayer it is traditional to take a bath and dress in new or best clothes.

Spiritually, Eid is a time of giving thanks to God for providing the strength and endurance needed for the previous month’s fast. It is also a time to give and seek forgiveness. Charity is one of the five pillars (or duties) of Islam and in the days before Eid each person pays a charitable tax or donates food to the poor. The tax is known as Zakat Al Fitr and is given before Eid so that everyone in the community can afford to celebrate Eid in some way.

During the day, people visit friends and relatives, bringing gifts and greeting one another by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’, meaning ‘Blessed Eid’. At each visit to each relative, it is customary to drink coffee and eat sweets – Kaek Al Eid is a biscuit made with honey and a mixture of pistachios and walnuts or dates and is eaten across the Arab world. Different countries have different sweet specialities: in Turkey baklava and Turkish Delight are favourites; in Iraq and Saudi Arabia people eat rose-flavoured biscuits filled called kleichas, filled with nuts and dates; while in India popular treats include handesh, a deep-fried Bengali sweet made from flour and date molasses; coconut samosas; and cardamom biscuits called nan khatai.

Eid Mubarak

Families gather in the evening for lavish banquets where huge quantities of food are eaten as people relax after the month of fasting. There is no single traditional dish but there are many regional specialities and always the food is rich and decadent. In Muslim countries the feasting continues throughout the next day … and the next.

Why is Eid al-Fitr on a different date each year?

The date of Eid al-Fitr is determined by the lunar Islamic calendar which has approximately 354 days each year. This is eleven days fewer than in the solar calendar and so, when the date is translated to the widely-used Gregorian calendar, it always falls eleven days earlier than the previous year. It can fall at any time of year and in any season.

When was Eid al-Fitr first celebrated?

The Prophet Muhammad instigated the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in AD624, two years after he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina.

Interesting facts about Eid al-Fitr

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