Eid 2014: Facts and History on the Islamic Festival After Ramadan

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A Filipino Muslim looks at her mobile phone while waiting for morning prayers to begin, during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Manila
A Filipino Muslim looks at her mobile phone while waiting for morning prayers to begin, during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, early morning at a public park in Manila July 28, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro Reuters/Erik De Castro

Eid al-Fitr is a holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting in Islam. Also known as the Festival of Fast-Breaking, it is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal, the month that comes after Ramadan in the Islamic calendar, and lasts up to three days in some countries. It is one of the two major Islamic festivals with Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice being the other one.

It is difficult to accurately predict the date of Eid al-Fitr according to the Gregorian calendar. This is because the month of Ramadan ends simultaneously with the beginning of Shawwal at the confirmed sighting of the new moon. The new moon may be sighted at different times in different locations. and so, Muslims all over the world may celebrate Eid al-Fitr on different dates.

This year 2014, Eid al-Fitr is expected to occur on the 28th or 29th of July.

History of Eid al-FitrAs held by Islamic tradition, one night in Ramadan in 610 A.D., while meditating at Mount Hira, the Prophet Muhammad had a vision of the angel Jibril, the messenger of Allah. It was at this time that the first recitation of the Quran was revealed to him. Over 23 years, the Prophet continued to receive visitations from the angel Jibril who recited to him the holy knowledge in verses.

The Prophet would memorize the verses automatically after receiving them. He would then recite them to whoever was in his company and ordered them to write it down immediately. This compilation of sacred knowledge became the Quran (The Recitation), the holiest book in Islam.

As respect to Allah and in gratitude for His revelation the Prophet ordered all followers of Islam to spend the month of Ramadan in fasting and prayer and end the month-long fast with festivities. And thus, the Eid al-Fitr was born. The festival aims to promote peace and brotherhood, as well as to bring the devout back to the everyday course of life after a month of non-indulgence and spiritual devotion.

How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated?Before the end of Eid, each Muslim family gives a donation of actual food-rice, dates, barley, etcetera-to the poor to ensure that they have a holiday meal and can join in the celebrations. This donation is called sadaqah al-fitr or charity of fast-breaking.

The day of Eid begins with an early bath, and then Muslims put on their best clothes and gather to outdoor locations or their nearby mosques to attend the Eid prayer ceremonies that consists of a sermon and the Eid prayer. The Eid prayer is different from the five obligatory prayers. It can be done in between the dawn and mid-day prayers.

Muslims go and visit family and friends after the Eid prayer to forgive old wrongs or just wish them Allah's peace and blessings. Special delicacies are prepared to celebrate the occasion and greeting cards are exchanged. Children receive gifts of toys and new clothes from the adults.

How is Eid celebrated in:

1. India

Eid in India is celebrated not just a break of fast, but as a day of festivities as well. Preparations for the Eid begins days ahead. The feast typically opens with dried fruits and dates with fruit juices for starters and builds up into an elaborate feast that consists of a hundred dishes, including mango puffs, fried prawns, kebabs, biryani and the ever popular drink Rooh-Afza.

2. Arabia

Regarded as an important Islamic country in the world, Arabia opens its Eid festivities with fantastic starters then moves on to elaborate main courses, sweets and traditional Eid delicacies, drinks and desserts. One such traditional delicacy that is always in demand during Eid is hijazi deibaza made with dates, dried apricots and mixed nuts

3. Turkey

In large cities like Istanbul, Eid is celebrated with fashion and high taste. Restaurants offer special Eid deals and start the meal with a popular soup called iftariye. The main course consists of traditional dishes and delicacies.

4. The Emirates

Sweets such as chocolates, candies, jalebi and hares abound during the Eid while traditional dishes such as ouzi, khameer, ghuraiba and maamoul are served.

5. Russia

Kvass, a traditional Russian drink made from rye bread, is commonly served to quell the thirst of the day-long fast. It is considered non-alcoholic by Russian standards.

6. U.S. and Canada

Eid meals and celebrations in the U.S. and Canada are often held in households, mosques and Islamic community centers. The United States Department of State hosts a dinner on the eve of Eid for national and local community leaders, faith groups and foreign policy officials.

7. Egypt

Family gatherings are served with traditional Egyptian food, such as fatta, a noodle-like pastry called konafa, and the ever popular kahk or cookies filled with nuts and powdered with sugar.

8. Afghanistan

Preparations for Eid begins ten days prior to the day itself while the festivities lasts for three days. Guests are served with traditional Eid delicacies such as jelabi, a dish made with chick peas called shor-nakhod, and a simple cake called ka kolcha, which is similar to pound cake.

9. United Kingdom

Annual festivities for the celebration of the Eid al-Fitr is held in the Trafalgar Square in London where it features stalls, exhibitions, live entertainment and children's activities.

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