This year, 2016, over 1.6 billion Muslims across the world will be celebrating Eid el-Fitr, which literally means ‘festival of breaking the fast’. It is known by various names such as Eid-ul-Fitr or Ramzaan Eid. In Southeast Asia, it is also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa- Hari Raya means “Celebration Day.”
It is an important religious day that marks the end of the pious month of Ramadan for practitioners of Islam. It is on this day that Muslims around the world break their month-long fast from dawn to sunset with a sweet feast after Eid prayer performed in open areas like fields or at mosques; however, there is no adhan or call for this Eid prayer.
Muslims wake up before sunrise on this day, go for communal prayers, listen to khutba (sermons), and greet each other with the Arabic greeting “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid).
The Eid festival is celebrated on different dates across the world, based on the sighting of the moon in the first day of Shawwal, which is the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. The date varies from country to country.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the five key practices that underpin the Islamic faith. The fast of Ramadan is a time for patience, endurance, reflection and spiritual purification. Muslims believe that the physical ritual allows them to understand the suffering of others as well as increasing their closeness to God.
Here is how it is celebrated across the world…
Nigeria is officially a secular country populated by large numbers of Muslims and Christians. Eid is popularly known as “Small Sallah” in Nigeria and people generally greet each other with the traditional greeting: “Barka Da Sallah”, which means “Greetings on Sallah” in the Hausa language. Muslims observe their Eid prayers at designated praying grounds before heading home to partake in festive meals, generally prepared by the women of the household. The Federal holiday typically lasts for two days in Nigeria.
Celebrations in India and the rest of the Asia share many similarities with regional variations. The night before Eid is called Chaand Raat, which means, “Night of the Moon”, Muslims in these countries will often visit 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 colourful bangles.
After the Eid prayers, it is common for some families to visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of departed family members.
Eid is celebrated grandly in the city of Hyderabad which has rich Islamic heritage. Hyderabadi haleem, a type of meat stew is a popular dish during the month of Ramadan, takes centre stage and becomes the main course at Iftar (the breaking of the fast).
In the People’s Republic of China, out of 56 officially recognised ethnic groups, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by at least 10 ethnic groups that are predominantly Muslim. These groups are said to total 18 million according to official statistics. It is a public holiday in certain regions of China; outside the Muslim-majority regions, only Muslims are entitled to a one-day holiday.
They conduct readings from the Quran and clean the tomb, reminiscent of the historic annual Chinese Qingming festival, in which people go to their ancestors’ graves, sweep and clean the area and make food offerings.
In Australia, a predominantly secular country, Muslims are able to practise their religion with great freedom. Most large companies allow for special religious holidays allowing Muslims to take a day off for Eid al-Fitr.
Areas where there are large Muslim populations have overflowing attendances at the mosque for the Eid al-Fitr prayer. The biggest Eid fair in Melbourne is held in Broadmeadows usually on the weekend following the Eid day. In Canberra, the capital of Australia, Eid Festival sponsored by Australian Federal Police (AFP) is held on the Sunday after the Eid day. The festival includes stalls from different nations, cultural programme, and rides for kids and adults.
IN UNITED STATES
Most Muslims in the United States offer the Eid prayer in big-city Islamic centres, convention halls or open parks. Muslims from different cultures with multi-national customs get together for prayers and celebrations. Generally, Muslims visit each other’s homes on Eid or hold large feasts in mosques or community halls. Sometimes, mosques rent parks for Muslims to pray in.
Sometimes, Muslims reserve amusement parks, skating rinks or other activity centres for an entire day of fun.
Muslims in Canada take a day off from work and go to prayers held in big-city mosques or Islamic centres, convention halls or sports arenas. Muslims visits each other’s homes on the Eid day offering gifts or money to children. Smaller Muslim communities in the rural areas hold other communal gatherings in mosques or rented community halls. In many Canadian communities, Muslim organisations and mosques also hold large Eid parties that are open to the entire Muslim community.
IN UNITED KINGDOM
In the United Kingdom, Eid al-Fitr is not a recognized public holiday; many Muslims do attend the Morning Prayer. During the morning, observant men usually wear a thawb, jubba and sherwani, and women usually wear a salwar kameez, then observe the Eid prayers, after which people greet each other.
In UK, some men may go to a local cemetery after Eid prayers to remember the deceased and pray for them. Common traditional foods used to celebrate are samosas, Siweya, Rice and Handesh, Noonor Bora, and Fulab.
Fiji is a small tropical island-nation northeast of Australia, made up of 7% Muslims, approximately 63,000. In Fiji, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslim men wearing their best clothes and attending the mosque for the early morning congregational prayer. Interestingly, women do not go to the mosques for prayers in most parts of Fiji. The traditional Eid greeting is Eid Mubarak followed by a formal embrace.
Mauritius has 16.6% of the total population as Muslims; Eid is one of the national holidays celebrated across the island, with the preparation of a feast, which typically includes the “biryani” prayer at the local mosques.
IN SAUDI ARABIA
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with great pomp in Saudi Arabia. Saudis decorate their homes and prepare sumptuous meals for family and friends. Eid festivities in Saudi Arabia may vary culturally depending on the region, but one common thread in all celebrations is of generosity and hospitality.
In the spirit of Eid, many Saudis go out of their way to show their kindness and generosity. It is common for even complete strangers to greet one another at random, even by occupants of vehicles waiting at stop lights. Sometimes even toys and gifts will be given to children by complete strangers. It is also traditional in some areas for Saudi men to go and buy large quantities of rice and other staples and then leave them anonymously at the doors of those who are less fortunate. Also, in some areas in the middle of Saudi Arabia, such as Al Qassim, it’s a common tradition that during Eid morning and after the Eid prayer people will put large rugs on one of streets of their neighbourhood and each household will prepare a large meal where these meals will be shared by all neighbours, it’s also a common practice that people will swap places to try more than one kind of meal.
Eid al-Fitr is observed over a three-day public holiday in Bangladesh. Educational institutions, banks and corporate offices usually remain closed for a week during this time. Bangladeshis observe the holiday by performing the obligatory Eid prayers on the morning of Eid, hugging each other, giving Zakat ul Fitr, and visiting friends and relatives. Popular customs also include ladies decorating one’s hands with henna, dressing up in new clothes and having a good meal with family and friends.
IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Idul Fitri or Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a public holiday in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Because sharing almost identical southeast Asian Islamic culture, the customs and rituals of Eid al-Fitr are quite similar in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, Southern Thailand and Cambodia.
– Seyifunmi Adebote for encomium.ng