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.

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