How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated around the world?
This week sees Ramadan draw to a close, and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr (also known as Eid ul-Fitr), with Muslims all over the world celebrating.
Eid marks the end of a month of fasting from dawn to sunset, as well as spiritual reflection and prayer.
The day will start with prayers and a big meal is usually the main event, but there’s lots of other ways people celebrate too.
Maswood Ahmed, a member of the Muslim Council of Britain, says that "Eid is a time of celebration after accomplishing one of the most important religious duties: fasting during the month of Ramadan". Lots of people celebrate this by spending time exchanging gifts and visiting friends and family.
He adds that you shouldn’t be surprised if you see lots of people hugging in the street as part of Eid celebrations. Men will hug other men as a sign of friendship, and women will do the same with fellow women: “If you go out on the street now, strangers, anybody they come across they’ll hug them… The whole idea is that whoever you meet, you try and create a feeling of good will. Any feeling of animosity is put aside, at least for one day!”
While there are lots of things that everyone will do at Eid, with approximately 2 billion Muslims across the globe, it’s not surprising that people can have some different ways of celebrating this holy festival.
Sweet treats and other foodstuffs
Eid al-Fitr is sometimes referred to as the Sugar Feast, a nod to the fact that a large constituent part of the meal one eats at the festival is desserts.
But different countries around the world have different favourites:
- Classic Turkish sweets such as Baklava and Turkish delight are given to friends, family and neighbours as a present during Eid, or Seker Bayrami as it’s commonly known in the country.
Iraq and Saudi Arabia
- The eating of dates is a very important part of both Ramadan and Eid, as they are a popular snack eaten at the pre-dawn meal before the fast (called the Suhoor). In these two countries though, they are of particular significance - lots of people will bake Kleichas, which are rose-flavoured biscuits that contain a filling of nuts and dates. Both Iraq and Saudi Arabia consider them to be their national cookie.
- Bint al sahn is the preferred Yemeni sweet. In English it’s sometimes called honey cake, and is topped with nigella seeds.
As for the savoury offering, in Russia (which has a long-standing passion for all things dumpling), Manti is a popular thing to eat at Eid. They’re usually stuffed with some sort of seasoned meat. In China, You Xiang (flour, water and yeast patties fried in oil) are either given as a gift or eaten as part of the Eid feast. In Bangladesh, Korma is traditionally eaten, as well as various savoury pittas that are shared with family and friends.
During Eid, one of the most common things you’ll hear people say to one another is “Eid Mubarak!” This literally means “blessed Eid” and is a way of expressing celebration. You might also hear “Eid sa’id” which means “happy Eid”.
Other countries have different greetings though. In Nigeria, people are likely to say “Balla da Sallah”, which is the Hausa for happy Eid. In Malaysia, Eid is called Hari Raya, so to wish someone a happy Eid, you would say “Selamat Hari Raya”.
There are some constituent parts of Eid al-Fitr that are recognised all over the world. For example, one of the five pillars of Islam is giving to charity, or Zakat. At Eid, there is a specific type of charitable giving called Zakat al-Fitr, which can take place at the end of Ramadan. However, it is recommended this is given out in advance so those in need can also join in the celebration of Eid.
As well as the universal traditions, there are some more quirky ones in different countries. One of these is in Afghanistan, where a popular Eid activity is to paint hard-boiled eggs and have a food fight with them, in what is known as Tokhm-Jangi. Everyone gets involved, and the aim is to break your opponent’s egg while keeping yours intact.