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Eid al-Fitr — joyous occasion for Muslims worldwide
July 2, 2016, 2:31 pm

Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Fitr ‘Festival of breaking of the Fast’, on the first day of the month of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar, to mark the end of month-long fasting from dawn to sunsetduring the month of Ramadan.

It is not possible to predict the date of Eid al-Fitraccurately according to the Gregorian calendar because the month of Shawwal begins, and hence the month of Ramadan ends, after a confirmed sighting of the crescent new moon or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. Since the new moon may be sighted earlier or later in specific locations, Muslims in different parts of the world may begin the Eid-al-Fitr celebrations on different dates.

Muslims believe that they are commanded by Allah, as mentioned in the Quran, to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan and pay the Zakat and fitra before offering Eid prayers on the morning of Eid al-Fitr.It is forbidden to fast on the Day of Eid and it is customary to acknowledge this with a small sweet breakfast, preferably of date fruit, before attending the special Eid prayer.

The Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers or at mosques. No call to prayer is given for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two units of prayer with an additional six incantations. The Eid prayer is followed by the sermon and then a supplication asking for Allah's forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world.After the prayers, Muslims greet each other with Eid Mubarak and visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances or hold large communal celebrations in homes, community centers or rented halls.Eid gifts, known as Eidi, are frequently given during Eid to children and immediate relatives.

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with great pomp in different parts of the world.

Saudi Arabia: In Saudi Arabia, people decorate their homes and prepare sumptuous meals for family and friends. While celebrations vary culturally depending on the region, the one common thread in all celebrations is of generosity and hospitality. First, it is common Saudi tradition for families to gather at the patriarchal home after the Eid prayers. Before the special Eid meal is served, young children will line up in front of each adult family member, who dispenses money as gifts to the children. Family members will also typically have a time where they will pass out gift bags to the children. These bags are often beautifully decorated and contain candies and toys.

South Africa: In Cape Town, hundreds of Muslims gather at Green Point in the evening of the last day of Ramadan each year for the sighting of the moon. The gathering brings together people from all walks of life, and everyone comes with something to share with others at the time of breaking the fast. The Maghrib (sunset) prayer is then performed in congregation and the formal moon-sighting results are announced thereafter.

Children receive presents and money from elder members of the family, relatives and neighbors. Most people wear new clothes with bright colors, while biscuits, cakes, samosas, pies and tarts are presented to visitors as treats. Lunch is usually served in family groups. It is also customary to exchange gifts.

Turkey: Celebrations marking EidEid al-Fitr, referred to as both ŞekerBayramı ("Bayram of Sweets") and RamazanBayramı ("Ramadan Bayram") are held nationwide.It is a public holiday, where schools and government offices are generally closed for the entire three-day period of the celebrations. The celebrations of bayram are infused with national traditions. It is customary for people to greet one another with Bayramınızkutluolsun ("May your bayram be blessed. It is a time for people to attend prayer services, put on their best clothes (referred to as bayramlık, often purchased just for the occasion), visit all their loved ones such as relatives, neighbors, and friends, and pay their respects to the deceased with organized visits to cemeteries, where large, temporary bazaars of flowers, water (for watering the plants adorning a grave), and prayer books are set up for the three-day occasion.

Egypt: Eid al-Fitr is a three-day feast and an official holiday in Egypt with vacations for schools, universities and government offices. The Eid day starts with a small snack followed by Eid prayers in congregation attended by men, women and children, in which the sermon reminds Egyptians of the virtues and good deeds they should do unto others, even strangers, during Eid and throughout the year.Afterwards, neighbors, friends and relatives start greeting one another. Family visits are considered a must on the first day of the Eid, so they have the other two days to enjoy by going to parks, cinemas, theatres or the beaches. Some like to go on tours or a Nile cruise, but Sharm El Sheikh is also considered a favorite spot for spending holidays in Egypt. Children are normally given new clothes to wear throughout the Eid. Also, women (particularly mothers, wives, sisters and daughters) are commonly given special gifts by their loved ones. The family gatherings involve cooking and eating all kinds of Egyptian food, especially Kahk — cookies filled with nuts and covered with powdered sugar. Egyptians either bake it at home or buy it in the bakery.

India: Celebrations in India and the rest of the Indian subcontinent share many similarities with regional variations. The night before Eid, called ChaandRaat, which means, ‘Night of the Moon’,will see Muslims visiting bazaars and shopping malls with their families for Eid shopping. Women, especially younger girls, often apply the traditional Mehndi, or henna, on their hands and feet and wear colorful bangles. Gifts are frequently given — new clothes are part of the tradition — and it is also common for children to be given small sums of money (Eidi) by their elders.After the Eid prayers, many families visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of departed family members. Visits to neighbors, family members, especially senior relatives, and the sharing of food and sweets are customary. On Eid day before prayers, people distribute a charity locally known as fitra. Many people also avail themselves of this opportunity to distribute zakat, an Islamic obligatory alms tax of 2.5 percent of one's annual savings, to the needy. Zakat is often distributed in the form of food and new clothes.

Indonesia: Eid is known in Indonesia as Hari Raya IdulFitri (or more popularly as Lebaran) and is a national holiday. Shopping malls and bazaars are usually filled with people to get things for Lebaran such as new clothes, shoes, sandals, and even food to serve days ahead of IdulFitri. The entire country is infused with a distinctive festive atmosphere with many banks, government and private officesclosed for the duration of the Lebaran festivities.

One of the largest temporary human migrations globally is the prevailing custom of the Lebaran where workers living in cities and towns return to their home town or village to celebrate with their families and to ask forgiveness from parents, in-laws, and other elders. It is estimated that more than 30 million Indonesians travel to their hometowns during lebaran holiday. This is known in Indonesia as mudik or pulangkampung (homecoming). The government of Indonesia provides additional transportation to handle the huge amount of travellers. However, the impact is still tremendous as millions of cars and motorcycles jam the roads and highways, causing kilometer long traffic jams each year.

The night before IdulFitri is called takbiran, it is filled with the sounds of many muezzin chanting the takbir in the mosques or musallahs, people usually fill the street and also chanting takbir. In many parts of Indonesia, especially in the rural areas, obor (torches) and damar/pelita (oil lamps) are lit up and placed outside and around homes. Also, during takbiran, people usually light various firecrackers or fireworks.

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