Eid al-Fitr: What Is It and When Is It Celebrated?

Within the Muslim calendar, there are two standout festivals: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. These celebrations follow the lunar Islamic calendar, meaning their dates shift within the Gregorian calendar each year.

Today, let’s explore Eid al-Fitr. What is it exactly, and when does it happen? Join us as we uncover the essence and joy of this festival.

What is Eid al-Fitr ?

Eid al-Fitr عِيْدُ الفِطْرِ is a combination of two words in Arabic.

Eid (عِيْد): An Arabic word meaning “festival,” “celebration,” or “holiday.” It is commonly associated with significant religious events in Islam.

Fitr (الفِطْرِ): This word refers to “breaking” or “conclusion,” often used in the context of breaking a fast. It signifies the end of fasting, particularly the fasting month of Ramadan. 

The term عِيْد الفِطْرِ “Eid al-Fitr” therefore translates to the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” marking the conclusion of the fasting period. During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate the completion of a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. It’s a time of joy, feasting, and thanksgiving to God for the strength given to complete the fast, as well as a period for increased charity and community bonding.

It is also referred to in some countries as the “Minor Eid” or “Small Eid” العيد الصَّغير because it lasts 3 days, while Eid al-Adha lasts 4 days.

When is Eid al-Fitr?

Since Muslims follow the Hijri calendar, Eid’s timing is determined by the sighting of the Shawwal crescent moon 🌙. This means that the Eid date can usually be confirmed only a day or two before the actual celebration.

While astronomical calculations can provide approximate or even certain dates for Eid al-Fitr, it’s crucial for Muslims to visually confirm the sighting of the moon to officially declare and confirm Eid. Astronomical data alone isn’t sufficient to ascertain the Eid date in cases where the moon isn’t sighted 👁️.

According to Islamic law, experts from authorized religious bodies search for the Ramadan crescent moon after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan. If sighted, the following day marks the beginning of the new month, which is Shawwal in this case. If not sighted, the following day completes the month of Ramadan.

There is no specific place to sight the Eid crescent; it can be observed from any location with a clear view of the sky. The most important thing is the ability to see the western horizon after sunset, where the crescent usually appears. Some prefer elevated places or areas away from light pollution to facilitate the sighting of the crescent. The observation is carried out through the following steps:

  1. Find the right time: They use astronomy to predict when the moon can be seen after sunset for Eid or before sunrise for Ramadan.
  2. Pick a spot: They choose a place with a clear view of the west horizon for Eid or east for Ramadan to see the moon.
  3. Use tools: Sometimes, they use telescopes or binoculars to see the moon better.
  4. Group observation: Often, people gather together to try and see the moon.
  5. Announce the sighting: Once the moon is seen, mosques or Islamic organizations announce it, and it gets shared in the media or online.

In non-Islamic countries, the task of sighting the Eid crescent moon is usually undertaken by Muslim communities and organizations.

If the moon is hard to see due to weather or location, Islamic communities in non-Islamic countries might rely on announcements from major Islamic countries to know when Ramadan or Eid starts.

Eid al-Fitr Islamic traditions 

The celebrations of Eid al-Fitr vary from one country to another, but there are common customs recommended in Islam for celebrating this occasion:

Wearing New and Beautiful Clothes

Muslims buy new clothes for Eid, especially for children. Some adults may opt for clean, elegant clothes, even if not brand new.

Adornment and Grooming

Applying fragrant perfumes, grooming, and presenting oneself with the best appearance.

Eating dates

Muslims usually consume an odd number of dates in the morning before heading to the Eid prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, and they do the same for breaking their fast (iftar) in Ramadan.

Takbir and Eid Prayer

Muslims perform Takbir (chanting praises to Allah)(الله أكبر الله أكبر لا إله إلا الله  الله أكبر الله أكبر ولله الحمد) in mosques upon sighting the Shawwal crescent moon. They gather (men, women, and kids) the next morning, the first day of Eid, for Eid prayers in mosques and designated prayer areas.

Eid prayer is considered a community obligation (Fard Kifaya), meaning if some Muslims in a community perform it, the duty falls off the rest. Some say it is Sunnah, meaning recommended, while others view it as an individual obligation (Fard ‘Ayn), meaning obligation for all Muslims. Like other prayers, it consists of two units (rak’ahs), but it includes an additional six or seven Takbirs after the opening Takbir (Takbirat al-Ihram).

Exchanging Greetings

Muslims congratulate each other on the occasion, often saying:

 “تَقَبَّل الله مِنَّا وَمِنْكُم” which means may god accept our and your Worshiping.

Visiting Relatives and Enjoying Time 

People visit each other, especially relatives, on Eid. Family members gather at one of their homes and share meals. They celebrate these three days by going out with their families to beautiful places, and spending enjoyable and memorable times together, whether in nature or parks with children’s play areas or other venues.

Zakat al-Fitr 

Zakat al-Fitr is a strongly recommended (واجِب) charity for Muslims given at the end of the month of Ramadan, before the Eid al-Fitr prayer. It is obligatory for every Muslim who possesses wealth enough to cover themselves and their family’s expenses for the day of Eid, whether in the form of staple food such as wheat, barley, dates, or the equivalent monetary value that can be used to purchase food.

These are the common celebratory aspects shared among Muslims in all countries.

Other traditions during Eid al-Fitr

In addition to the Islamic customs of celebrating Eid al-Fitr, other common festive practices vary from one country to another. Here are some of these practices observed in some Arab and Islamic countries:

Visiting Graves

The tradition of visiting graves is prevalent in Arab countries. People visit the graves of their departed loved ones, particularly after the Eid prayer. This practice is also observed by Muslims in China.

Although this practice is discouraged in Islam, because Eid is meant to be a time of joy, and visiting graves can evoke feelings of sadness and bitterness. Despite this, it remains a common tradition in most Arab countries, where people often bring flowers or green branches to decorate the graves.

Eidiyah (Eid Gifts)

Eidiyah generally refers to a monetary gift given to children on Eid to bring them joy. In some countries, women may also receive Eidiyah from their husbands. Eidiyah can also be given in the form of gifts or toys instead of money, depending on the region. It is a widespread practice across all Arab and Islamic countries, with colorful envelopes used for giving money in Indonesia.

Exchanging Greetings

People visit each other and exchange greetings for Eid, or they send text messages if they are in distant places to wish each other well for Eid, with greetings such as: “كُل عَامْ وَأَنْتُمْ بِخَيْر” (may you be well every year!) “يِنْعَاد عَلِيْكُمْ بِالخِيْرْ والصَحَّة والعَافِيِة” (May it return to you with goodness, health, and wellness) in the Levant, “كُلِ سَنَة وانْتُوا طَيِّبْيِن” (Every year and you are well) in Egypt, “عَسَاكُمْ مِنْ عَوَّادَه” (May you be among those who celebrate it again) in Gulf. 

With the advent of Photoshop, a tradition emerged of exchanging pre-designed images or videos adorned with roses and greeting messages, a practice that persists today, seemingly unaffected by the technological revolution. These images, once received, are often forwarded to all contacts on WhatsApp in a chain-like fashion, reminiscent of a digital form of money laundering. It’s common to circulate these greetings from one side of the family to the other, say from your father’s side to your mother’s side and back. Interestingly, these images and videos are so familiar that one can respond to them without the need to download them, as they have become as recognizable as the back of one’s hand.

Eid Sweets

Women typically start preparing Eid sweets in the last week of Ramadan, with Muslims of all backgrounds participating. The types of sweets vary from one country to another.

For example, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are known for “الكليجة” (Kleija) which are hollow biscuits filled with dates, honey, sugar, or date syrup. Egypt is famous for “الكحك” (Kahk) a circular biscuit, and “الغريبة” (Ghareeba) is a traditional Arab sweet made from ghee, sugar, and flour and is served in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Levant, Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq-. In the Levant, “المعمول” (Maamoul) is served, a type of filled cookie with dates, pistachios, walnuts, or coconut.

In the Maghreb, “مَقْرُوض” (Makroud) is popular, made from semolina dough stuffed with dates.

In Yemen,”بنت الصحن” (Bint al-Sahn) is the most famous dessert associated with celebrations and occasions in general. It is a round cake made of layers of dough prepared from flour, water, butter, and eggs with a little sugar, sweetened with honey.

Indonesia is known for a cake called “Kue Lapis” (Spekkoek), which is a type of Indonesian layer cake made from flour and butter or vegetable shortening.

In Turkey, Eid al-Fitr is also known as “Şeker Bayramı,” which translates to “Sugar Festival.” Turkey is famous for “baklava,” a sweet pastry, and “kadayıf”. 

These sweets are usually served with coffee or tea, depending on the customs of each country. and the dates are served too in al-eid.

Eid Clothing

Some Muslims wear traditional attire from their countries on Eid, such as those in the Maghreb, Malaysia, the Gulf, and Turkey. In the Levant, some wear new clothes of any style, regardless of whether they are traditional or not.

Food feasts

These are prepared on the day of Eid, varying from one country to another, where family members gather to enjoy lunch together and savor

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