Today was the first day of Eid Al Fitr around most of the Muslim countries and communities around the world. According to the Hijri calendar, this day marks the end of Ramadan and breaking the fast, which is what the word Fitr means.
However, while that is shared between all Muslims, Eid Al Fitr means a lot more than just breaking fast or ending a period and starting a new month. Each Muslim country and Muslim community has some special and remarkable events and acts that they practice during this day as a marks that makes it special for all Muslims to look forward for next year's Eid to celebrate it again.
Having said all that, some of our Global Voices authors would like to share with you, how Eid is celebrated in their countries. Here is some excerpts from what authors of Palestine, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Egypt and Jordan, like to share:
In Palestine – Palestinians manage to have the Eid spirit, just as much as occupation allows them to. On Eid you still can see joy in the eyes of children. It is important to create a celebration for kids in Eid.
In Tunisia – The closer family then gets together over lunch or dinner at the family house, or the eldest member’s house. The meal in the Tunis area is in most cases either “Mloukhia” or “Madfoona”.
In Bangladesh – It is customary to take blessings from the elderly who in return give monetary tips (Eidi). Specially the children are more kin to collect all the tips they can accumulate and have some money to celebrate on their own, like going to theatre in bunch or having a party.
In Egypt – You wake up early, go pray a special prayer with family and friends. Up until this stage, as well as the customary follow up breakfast, most Egyptians act cohesively. Divergence starts right after.
In Jordan – Eid, to the millions of people that live in the Fertile Crescent, is the sweet smell of freshly baked date-cakes called ‘Ma’mool’, the excitement of the crisp new clothes waiting to be worn, and the aroma of Arabic coffee hovering around the house.
Read more details per country
by Shaden Abdul Rahman
Eid Al Fitr is celebrated on the first of Shawwal, the tenth month in Muslim calendar. It marks the end of Ramadan, during which they have fasted. Ramadan is a holy month because it is the month in which the Holy Qura'an was revealed. Eid has an important aspect, that is charity which Muslims are expected to extend to the needy.
In the past years Palestinians spent Eid either mourning a son killed by the Israeli troops or showing solidarity with another family mourning a lost family member. This state of public mourning often leaves no room for Eid as every family grieves over a loved one. Palestinians live in poverty, the majority of them are unable to buy their kids new clothes, toys and gifts. From daily house demolitions to arrests and killing, one would think Palestinians are unable to celebrate Eid, in a way or another, this is true.
Nevertheless, Palestinians manage to have the Eid spirit, just as much as occupation allows them to. On Eid you still can see joy in the eyes of children. It is important to create a celebration for kids in Eid.
In Eid people visit each other and these visits always include coffee and special baked sweets filled with dates and nuts. Usually when someone dies people just offer Qahwah (coffee), if the person who died is considered as a martyr they will offer sweets.
First thing in the morning people especially kids put on their nicest clothes and attend a Eid prayer followed by a sermon. After that prayer, hand-shakes, kisses and hugs peppers the joyful greetings of “kul 3am wa in intum bekheir” (may you enjoy a good health this year and every year). Women who spent the night making baked sweets bring some with them to the mosque and share with the community. After the prayer everyone heads to the cemetry to visit the graves of departed relatives. Woman hands out sweets while men recite Al Fatiha (the opening verse from Qura'an) on the souls of those who died during the conflict with Israel, sweets giving at the cemetry is called “rahmeh“. Muslims also distribute alms and food to the poor.
After visiting the cemetry, men visit their female relatives, bringing gifts of money and lingering there to drink coffee or tea and eat more sweets before moving on to the next house. Towns and villages become alive with people going from one house to the next, sharing greetings as they pass one another in the streets and each house invites the passers to come in and have something to eat or drink. Midday meal is a remarkable one during Eid Al Fitr, it usually consists of stuffed lamb (at least for those who still can afford it), or masnaf lamb (lamb meat cooked with yoghurt) or any other combination of meat and rice.
Home made Ka'ek (baked sweets stuffed only with dates, left side of photo) wa Ma'amool (baked sweets stuffed either with dates or nuts, right side of photo). By Sabbah
Home made Ma'amool. By Sabbah
As for kids, the best part of Eid is receiving presents and small coins. They run to the shops to buy balloons, toy pistols, candy and sparklers. It is normal to see male kids wandering the streets with so much joy in their eyes holding their toy pistols, to them this is the only way they can face their fear and express the bitter feeling of injustice that torture them everyday. Their psychology is the product of living under occupation.
Scouts would start collecting charity after visiting the cemetries and placing flowers on graves. Fireworks play all day and night especially in the first day of Eid and lots of simple small fun places with lots of games are installed in the empty areas everywhere.
This Eid is the first for those who live in Gaza strip. During the past few days Gaza witnessed Israeli air raids that killed 13 Palestinians some of them were children, the latest air strike was on the first of this month (Novemebr), two Palestinians were killed just one day before Eid. Palestinian authorities said there will be no official celebration of Eid this year either due to the difficult circumstances Palestinians live in the light of the Israeli occupation.
Last year and every year under the occupation the majority of Muslims are prohibited from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque by the Israeli soldiers. It's pretty much like what happens when Muslim Palestinians decide to pray the Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Often Israeli authorities will announce that access to Al-Aqsa mosque will be granted to Palestinians from the West Bank. What happens is that elderly male and female Palestinians endure so much pain trying to fulfil this religious duty in Jerusalem. After heated arguments with soldeirs at the check-points telling them to go back to their homes, they decide to pray at the check-point.
In Eid, people seizes the chance for new beginings and fresh starts in relations.
May the next Eid we celebrate be in freedom and peace.
by Mohamed Marwen Meddah
Eid El-Fitr is also called the small Eid in Tunisia, the big one being Eid El Adha.
Many traditions and practices are associated with this Eid in Tunisia, which I think is one of the most beautiful days of the year.
In the days before the Eid, all the fuss is about getting different varieties of traditional sweets, that will be served to the guests, and buying new clothes for the whole family to wear and celebrate the Eid in.
In the morning of the Eid, the Eid prayers are held in mosques all over the country, which are an amazing experience that starts with lots of supplications and chanting, that can be heard throughout the neighbourhoods, and is then followed by a sermon and prayers.
Before the Eid prayer begins Zakat al Fitr, a little charity, is distributed by every household depending on the number of it's family members.
After that, the men and kids of the family, all dressed up in their new clothes, go out and start visiting and wishing a happy eid to members of the extended family tree and friends, making it a great chance to reconnect and reunite with the family and friends.
The only downside is that they get served sweets at every house and they have to take some, which means that they end up stuffed with sweets at the end of the day.
As for the women, they stay at home to receive the guests; the men and kids of other relatives.
The closer family then gets together over lunch or dinner at the family house, or the eldest member's house. The meal in the Tunis area is in most cases either “Mloukhia” or “Madfoona”.
Children love this day because they are given gifts and money by their parents and the close family members they visit.
I personally love how this Eid brings families together and reunites them. I hope we had more days like it in the year.
In Bangladesh, Eid means sharing happiness with the family, giving new clothes of all colors to all dependent members of the family and wearing them on this day. On this day special foods are prepared, the preparation of which may start several days before. The items include Semai(vermicelli), Doi Bara, Chotpoti, Biriani, Firni, Sweets and many more. This day there is an open invitation to everybody. In the morning people perform the obligatory Eid prayer mostly in mosques. There are special grounds prepared for praying en-masse and there may be a crowd of well over 100,000 in one congregation in some places.
People visit family members, neighbors and acquaintances’ houses and everybody is welcomed with food and blessings. Even the non-Muslims are welcome and included in the celebration. People embrace one another (for the male) irrespective of status or age. They also visit the graves of the relatives and pious Muslims. It is a religious obligation on the day to pay fitra ( a dole) to the needy at a fixed rate as a thanks giving. People also pay clothes and money as zakaat to poor so that the poor, too, may enjoy the day along with others, and may not be worried for earning their livelihood at least on the day of happiness.
It is customary to take blessings from the elderly who in return give monetary tips (Eidi). Specially the children are more kin to collect all the tips they can accumulate and have some money to celebrate on their own, like going to theatre in bunch or having a party. The visits go on for a couple of more days till the Eid vacation is over. Some people go visit cemeteries to remember and pray for their loved ones.
Eid fairs and sports competitions are organized at many rural places. These fairs have merry-go-rounds, puppet shows, spiritual concerts and bioscopes and many handicrafts are sold. Boat race, kabadi, football and even cricket matches are organized which draw a lot of crowd. The Eid holidays last from minimum three days up to a week making all these possible.
The remarkable thing in celebrating Eid in Bangladesh is the family bonds. No matter how far one is from the family for the whole year, he/she will go back to the ancestral home and celebrate Eid with kith and kins. E.g. Dhaka, being a mega city has a population well over 11 million. Almost 40%-50% of the population goes to their village/small town home causing a great rush in traffic (and some accidents) just before and after the Eid holidays. But this pain is part of the happiness of celebrating together.
by Karim Elsahy
A typical Eid morning in Egypt goes accordingly. You wake up early, usually disgruntled, and go pray a special prayer, in my opinion the most beautiful Muslim prayer there is, and quickly overcome your discontent about waking up so early (well it is right after dusk!). This is always done with family and friends. Up until this stage, as well as the customary follow up breakfast, most Egyptians act cohesively. Divergence starts right after. The portion of the younger generation that can escape the family obligations tend to migrate towards the nearest body of water (typically the Red Sea) while those that cant escape, or those with better moral fiber according to some, spend at least the first day playing musical chairs between families houses. I’ve done both growing up and they both felt really good, in their own way ;)
The most entertaining thing to see are the college kids that start drinking immediately; drunk by 9am. After a month of prohibition what do you expect?
All in all, there is a general “happy” mood and most Egyptians can agree on one thing at this point… Thank GOD it’s over!
by Roba Al Assi
It's quite fascinating how culture and tradition choose to highlight a given criteria in whichever way they deem appropriate. It's as if they add the finishing touches- the red purse that makes the white dress stunning and the blue icing over the cake.
In the case of Eid, a Mulim holiday celebrated bi-annually by over a billion Muslims, the diversity in the finishing touches is amusing, especially as only 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world.
Having spent my childhood in a very globalized community, I have come to realize that these finishing touches are an essential part of my identity- in this case, a Levantine Arab, as the Levant shares the same finishing touches when it comes to such wide-scale celebrations.
Eid, to the millions of people that live in the Fertile Crescent, is the sweet smell of freshly baked date-cakes called ‘Ma'mool', the excitement of the crisp new clothes waiting to be worn, and the aroma of Arabic coffee hovering around the house.
The Eid routine consists of spending the 3 days visiting family and friends, refered to as ‘Aa-yed'-ing, and being visited by them in return, each visit usually consisting of around 20 minutes. The first day is dedicated to the “family elders”, as well as a huge feast with the entire “tribe”. The 2 following days are dedicated to friends, loved ones, and fun family activities.
Anyone who has been to an Arab household will be aware of an Arab's need to provide tip-top hospitality, and Eid provides the perfect excuse to pamper the hoards of guests coming to ‘Aa-yed'.
For what is probably centuries, the women of the family start to gather to mass produce gigantic amounts of ‘Ma'mool’ during the week before Eid. The dates are transformed into a sweet paste, the dough is prepared into cakes that is satiated with the paste, and then each cake it is carefully stamped with pretty patterns and powdered sugar. The ‘Ma'mool’ is then wrapped and presented to each family that comes to ‘Aa-yed'. One cannot underestimate the importance of ‘Ma'mool', for it turns into a criterion that measure the hospitality of each family.
The other two major components of what is served during Eid is Arabic coffee and chocolate, the latter being usually passed out as the visiting family is leaving.
In the Levant, Eid is also the season for shopping. Naturally, with all the visiting being done, people need to dress up to look specially fresh, so they usually buy new clothes or set apart special clothes for Eid. Children are given money and gifts, referred to as ‘Aydeyeh', by close relatives, and there are special charities that pass out simple gifts to children in families that cannot afford to do so.
May everyone have a blessed Eid, full of loved ones, laughter, and ‘Ma'moul'.