Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. But it is not only an ending, but a beginning of feasting and family celebration.
Awadh Binhazim, director of public relations for the Islamic Center of Nashville, Tenn., said American Muslims’ Eid al-Fitr celebrations are much like those in Muslim countries all over the world.
The basic happenings on Eid al-Fitr consist of prayers, greeting family and friends, a lunch feast and showing charity to less fortunate Muslim families.
“The prayers mark the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr (EED-al-FITTER), or ‘feast of fast breaking’ holiday, in which Muslims exchange social visits and seek to strengthen bonds of brotherhood,” according to the Council on American Islamic Relations Web site. “During this holiday, Muslims greet each other by saying ‘Eid mubarak’ (EED-moo-BAR-ak), meaning ‘blessed Eid,’ and ‘taqabbalallah ta’atakum,’ or ‘may God accept your deeds.'”
Muslims begin Eid al-Fitr with morning prayers, Binhazim told EthicsDaily.com. The goal, he said, is to have all Muslims gather at the same venue for congregational prayers. For instance, in Nashville Muslims gather at the Gentry Center at Tennessee State University.
Prayers begin about 8 a.m. A sermon follows. The whole service lasts about an hour, Binhazim said.
“Following the service, there is about half an hour of greetings,” he said. “This is where people exchange blessings and prayers with the rest of the community.” After the service, many Muslims make their rounds to visit and greet family members.
“There are few differences between the way we celebrate here and the way other Muslims celebrate in other countries,” Binhazim said. “What varies is the lunch.”
The main difference, he said, is the food prepared for the feast. This varies depending on cultural influence in Muslim countries like Pakistan, India and Middle Eastern and African countries.
Binhazim said Eid al-Fitr is also a time when Muslims entertain their children. Local children really enjoy going to Chuck E. Cheese, he said.
And if Eid al-Fitr falls on a school day, which it will this year, parents write notes to their children’s teachers explaining that their children will be absent because Eid al-Fitr is a “big day” for Muslims. Of course, in Muslim countries, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday, he said.
“Many families also give their children gifts and reward them with new clothes,” Binhazim said.
“On this day Muslims show their real joy for the health, strength and the opportunities of life, which Allah has given to them to fulfill their obligation of fasting and other good deeds during the blessed month of Ramadan,” according to IslamiCity.com.
But Eid al-Fitr is not just about celebration and feasting.
“This is a time to gather and to remember and honor God and pray to God as an individual and a group,” Binhazim said. “This is when we ask God for acceptance of our fasting period.”
Muslims are also expected to give food and other donations to less fortunate Muslim families all throughout Ramadan, but especially on Eid al-Fitr. “There is always somebody less fortunate,” Binhazim said.
It is important for Muslims to gather together on Eid al-Fitr, Binhazim said.
“The bonds of community are built through interaction,” he said. “And community participation also helps build strong family bonds.”
IslamiCity.com provides a detailed list of tasks that should be completed on this holiday. Wake up early, take a bath, brush your teeth, dress up in one’s finest clothes, “use perfume (men only),” and “use two separate routes to and from prayer ground” are among some of the guidelines set by IslamiCity.com.
Because the feast day’s date is determined by the sighting of the new moon, Eid al-Fitr will either take place on Dec. 5 or 6 this year, according to CAIR-net.org.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.
To learn more about Ramadan read:
A Ramadan Primer