Eid ul-Fitr, or عيد الفطر, is a celebration held by Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan and to thank Allah for the strength he gave them to get through this traditional period of fasting. It lasts three days, and it is sometimes called “Lesser Eid” to contrast it with Aid ul-Adha, or “Greater Eid,” another major holiday for Muslims. The holiday is a time for fellowship, socialization, and good wishes, and it is celebrated with a variety of local traditions all over the world. Visitors to nations with large Muslim populations are often caught up in the celebrations, with shouts of Eid mubarak, meaning “blessed Eid,” ringing in the streets.
Ramadan is a very serious time for Muslims, taking place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Celebrants fast during the day and pray frequently, meditating upon the nature of faith and Allah. It is traditional to make gifts of alms and food to the poor during the month, and to abstain from sins. This period of time can be very challenging, as it requires self-sacrifice and personal discipline. Ramadan officially ends when the crescent moon of the 10th month in the Islamic calendar is sighted.
In Arabic, Eid means “festival,” and Fitr means “breaking the fast,” so Eid ul-Fitr is literally a festival for breaking the fast. After the intense religious introspection and fasting of Ramadan, Muslims take Eid as an opportunity to have fun, celebrate their faith, and enjoy the company of friends and family. The festival may also get quite chaotic, with fireworks, and distributions of presents to friends and neighbors, along with music and dancing.
For the celebration, families cleanse themselves in the morning, eat a small meal, and then attend prayer at a mosque. By tradition, celebrants offer alms to the mosque for distribution to the poor before the start of Eid prayers; these alms are known as Zakat ul-Fitr. After prayer and a sermon, the festivities begin, with celebrants typically visiting each other in their finest clothes to exchange gifts and commemorate friendship. Eid is also a traditional time for forgiveness and reconciliations.
Since Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, feasting is an important part of this Muslim holiday. There are no universally traditional Eid foods, but the holiday typically includes rich foods that may not have been eaten during Ramadan, along with elaborate regional or family recipes. Invitations to parties and dinners are common, and people often take the day off from work to spend time celebrating.