Eid-al-Fitr (also known as Ramzan Id, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Idul-Fitr and several other names) is celebrated in different parts of the world by people of the Muslim faith to mark the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the 30 day holy fasting period. It is a celebration after a difficult period of fasting from dawn to dusk daily during this period, with the daily five times namaaz or prayers said at home or strictly attended with others at mosques by all devout muslims.
Ramzan Eid marks the first day of the new month Shawwal. Eid is a celebration of the successful culmination of a month long period of fasting, a rejoicing that they would reap the fruits on having observed the religious ritual devoutly and without hitch.
The celebrating of Eid
Being a gazette holiday in India, all offices are generally closed to mark the occasion. The community prayers at mosques attended to, first thing in the morning, people then visit homes of relatives and friends, wearing their new clothes and finery stitched for the occasion. Good wishes of ‘Eid Mubarak’ are exchanged, sweets are distributed and eaten and there is a lot of cheering and bonhomie all around. Some take it as an auspicious occasion to commence a project or start something new. It also is an occasion for some who have not given to charity during the Ramadan month and therefore give the zakat-al-fitr, which could be the giving away of barley, dates, raisins, or wheat flour to poor people or the equivalent in monetary terms. Where there is communal harmony, there is an entire congregation of all people in the neighbourhood, with maybe even of different faiths, to wish and partake sweets and maybe even the afternoon meal together. Children are given new toys as gifts or ‘Eidi’ for the occasion.
A brief background about Eid
Eid-al-Fitr originated with the Prophet Muhammad who saw Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha as two occasions for the Thanksgiving to Allah or the Almighty with gratitude for his creation of mankind and which could be celebrated with rejoicing and entertainment. Traditionally, it is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the crescent moon shortly after sunset. If the moon is not observed immediately after the 29th day of the previous lunar month (either because clouds block its view or because the western sky is still too bright when the moon sets), then it is the following day. However, in most countries, it is generally celebrated on the same day as Saudi Arabia.
Different ways of celebrating Eid across the world
In Saudi Arabia, the emphasis is on generosity and hospitality. Before the special Eid Meal the children in the family line up and receive their beautifully decorated gifts or ‘Eidi’. Many shopkeepers in keeping with the spirit of Eid provide free gifts to customers who make purchases of certain chocolates or candies. Strangers also greet each other at random just for the occasion. Good Samaritans buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously at the doorsteps of the less fortunate. In some neighbourhoods, after the prayers are over, rugs are laid out in the street and a huge feast is arranged where all in the neighbourhood are invited to partake. Some cities have people swapping places to try out different kinds of preparations. There are also huge fireworks for the occasion.
Turkey has a three day celebration with all three days being public holidays. People get up early in the morning and the men attend the special prayers. Children go from door to door in their neighbourhoods, knock, wish ‘Happy Bayram’ in Turkish and get their reward of candies, chocolates and traditional sweets. Some visit the cemeteries to pay respects to the departed. There are fund raising activities all over the country for the poor and many forms of entertainment like stage plays and shadow plays.
Egypt also has a three day celebration along similar lines as described above and with a lot of entertainment.
Tunisia, Somali, North Africa, Sahel, Horn of Africa, all have roughly the same manner of offering prayers, distribution of gifts to the children, sumptuous feats and entertainment in varying degrees. Be it countries like USA, Canada, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or those like Malaysia, Indonesia Singapore, Brunei or the Philippines, there is nothing much very different.
The message from Eid
Eid is the celebration after Ramadan, by way of prayers, community gathering for feasts, distribution of gifts to children, the special kindliness shown to the poor or not so fortunate by way of gifts or offerings, entertainment and then more entertainment, more in relief after a month long strict observance of fasting from dawn to dusk.
But Eid more so, teaches the aspects of the fast that stand for empathy for the poor, the value of charity, worship, the endearing qualities of steadfastness and patience etc. as well as subtly shows the transcending of the spiritual over the physical existence.
If such observances were made within other communities and between communities as well, with such bonhomie and a kindly attitude towards one and all, even for a day or two, surely there would come times, better than of today, when there would be a spirit of brotherliness and kinsman ship all around. How nicer a world would this then be, to live in?