Eid al-Fitr 2019: Everything you need to know

The three-day Muslim festival marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Women react as they ride a camel during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, at Clifton beach in Karachi
Eid al-Fitr begins with the first sighting of the new moon [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

As Muslims around the world bid Ramadan farewell, they also prepare for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month.

Depending on the sighting of the moon, Eid celebrations will begin either on Tuesday (June 4) or Wednesday (June 5).

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE started Eid on Tuesday, whereas Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and Australia and others won’t start till Wednesday.

What is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr means “festival of breaking the fast” and marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days as an official holiday in all Muslim-majority countries. However, the number of vacation days varies by country.

How is the start of Eid determined?

Like Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr begins with the first sighting of the new moon, so usually Muslims have to wait until the night before Eid to verify its date. 

If the new moon is not visible, the month lasts 30 days. 

Because it is a lunar occurrence, the date of Eid changes annually on the Gregorian calendar and varies from country to country depending on geographical location.

To declare the start of Eid, Muslim-majority countries depend on the testimonies of local moon sighters. The Judicial High Court then decides if Eid has arrived.

When the sighting has been verified, Eid is declared on televisions, radio stations and at mosques.

How do Muslims celebrate Eid?

Muslims across the world begin Eid celebrations by partaking in communal dawn prayers, followed by a short sermon. 

While in some countries the prayers take place in mosques or large halls, in many countries it is also held in the open.

People congratulate one another as they head home after Eid prayers. They spend the day visiting relatives and neighbours and accepting sweets as they move around from house to house. Children, dressed in new clothes, are offered gifts and money to celebrate the joyous occasion.

This is preceded by the giving of alms to the poor, or zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

It is common for the capitals of Muslim-majority countries to decorate their streets with festive lights and hold carnivals to commemorate the end of the holy month. 

Each country has traditional desserts and sweets that are prepared before Eid or on the morning of the first day. These foods range from special biscuits and bread to cakes and puddings.

On the first day of Eid al-Fitr, voluntary fasting is not allowed as Muslims are encouraged to feast and celebrate the completion of a month of worship and abstinence from food.

In some countries, families visit graveyards to offer their respects to family members who have departed.

Eid Al-Fitr Prayer Held At Manhattan Mosque
In some Muslim countries, Eid prayers take place outside, while in others they are held in mosques or large halls [File: AFP]

What are common Eid greetings?

The most popular greeting is “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid) or “Eid sa’id” (Happy Eid).

Eid greetings also vary depending on the country and language.

For instance, in Indonesia, Eid is called Lebaran, so Indonesians would say, “Selamat Lebaran”, which means Happy Eid. Other variations of Happy Eid are “Mutlu Bayramlar” in Turkish and “Barka da Sallah” in Hausa, a Nigerian language.

What are other traditions associated with Eid?

Each country has a set of customs associated with Eid. 

Generally, Muslims prepare for Eid prayer by bathing, preparing themselves and dressing in new clothes.

Clothes are an important marker of Eid. Whether people choose to wear traditional or modern, Western, clothes, all must be well turned-out.

Muslims are also encouraged to eat something sweet, usually dates, before heading to the Eid prayers.

On their way to the prayer, traditionally held in an open area, Muslims recite takbeerat, praising God by saying “Allahu Akbar”, meaning God is great.

Throughout the day, family elders distribute cash or gifts to the children.

What do people eat for Eid?

Source: Al Jazeera