A while back I wrote a post on Ramadaan. I tried my best to make it accessible for all our readers and it was quite well-received. Today I will write a long overdue post about the end of Ramadaan, which culminates in a celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr.
In my experience, people who are not Muslim have NO IDEA about Eid other than “its Muslim Christmas”. First thing you need to know- its nothing like Christmas and we don’t like it being compared to the Christian holiday.
So what is Eid ul Fitr about?
No long-winded religious explanation here. At its most basic level Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr (also known as Id al-Fitr or Eid al-Fitr) on the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar. It marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and the start of a feast that lasts up to three days in some countries. Its a day rejoiced with underlying principles of charity, forgiveness and gratitude. A day spent with family and friends enjoying the special culinary delights that decorate the dining table.
When is Eid?
It is not possible to predict the date of Eid ul-Fitr according to the Gregorian calendar accurately. Eid begins when the new moon marking the end of Ramadan and the start of the new month, Shawaal, is spotted. Like Ramadan, which also begins with the sighting of the new moon, the date of Eid is somewhat subjective – the moon is not spotted on the same day everywhere.
What can I say?
If you want to wish someone for Eid, you can say Eid Mubarak (Moo-Bar-Rak). Eid Mubarak means “Blessed Festival”. It’s a way of saying “Happy Eid” at the time of the Islamic Eid holidays. If these words fail you, an enthusiatastic “Happy Eid!” will also suffice 🙂
What do people do on Eid?
On the day of Eid, Muslim men get up early in the morning and prepare themselves for a congregational Eid payer at the mosque. This consists of a sermon followed by the prayer. After the prayer, Muslim scatter and go to meet friends and family as Eid is a time to come together as a community, forget the grudges, settle all the rows and renew family and friend ties. Many Muslims dress in their finest clothes. Old wrongs are forgiven and money is given to the poor. Special foods are prepared and friends or relatives are invited to share the feast. Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion but its underlying purpose is to praise God and give thanks to him, according to Islamic belief.
Spending time with loved ones is a big part of Eid. In Indonesia, there is such a mass exodus from Jakarta to home villages that there is a name for the pilgrimage and resulting traffic jams: “Lebaran.” Here in Korea, there isn’t a strong Muslim community so Eid celebrations are often overlooked. So when you are very far away from our family (like Faraaz and I) Eid tends to turn into a very homesick and sad affair.
However when you have friends like I do, they make sure that your Eid celebration goes on even if it’s a little belated and your family are absent. So here is how to enjoy a simple Eid celebration if you are away from your family:
1. Adorn yourself.
This Eid is an occasion of joy and happiness and thus bright colours are the trend of the season. It is common to see people wear bright and robust colors. This is reflected by women wearing bright coloured bangles and beautiful jewellery. Though most men opt to dress in the usual white kurtha, women tend to go quite the opposite. Just because you are in a foreign land, does not mean you should not adhere to your style traditions. Wear whatever you usually wear on Eid. In my case, that would be a shalwar kameez (also spelled salwar kameez) or what South Africans call a Punjabi. My mother sewed this one for me when I was 19… Aren’t the colours pretty?!
2. Prepare for the feast
Eid ul Fitr marks the end of the fasting month, so you know food plays an important role, perhaps even more so than with other celebrations. In SA, my mother would get up at 6:30 in the morning to make food! This year I was sharing the responsibility with Shardale and Kerissa. So I created a Facebook event to help us know what needs to get done. And then I wished I hadn’t because holy smokes, there was so much to be prepared! This is not helped by the fact that most ingredients are super hard to come by (for e.g. condensed milk) so we had to arrange things way in advance.
After weeks of planning and preparation, we gathered at Shardale’s apartment to enjoy all the cooking and celebrate that feeling: where laughter fills the air and there is an amazing energy as we forget that we are in this strange country and sit together as we eat and giggle.
On the menu:
It was a lovely evening and it made me feel very grateful for the amazing friends I have especially those who have stuck with through me the years and even moved to Korea with only my encouragement. Celebrating Eid with family is more cultural than Islamic, and I subscribe to the fact that everybody can be your family.
Its also such a blessing to have Faraaz here in Korea with me, helping me prepare haleem and boiling eggs for biryani. Last year I was the only Muslim person in Korea that I knew of!
When I moved, I was mentally prepared for what was at stake: no easy access to family and Eid celebrations via Skype. On Eid, my sister will set up a Skype call when our extended family converge to visit my aunt, so I get to talk to everyone at the same time. I love those Skype calls because they are never coordinated! Everyone is talking on top of one another and no one hears anything; and often, we are just too self-absorbed looking at ourselves on the screen. When I reflect on being away from them and I sit in front of my MacBook on Skype with my family, I realise that my family and I don’t see living apart as a way to have relationships diminished. Distance can strengthen and make you appreciate the relationships in life.
Here are some pictures of people celebrating Eid ul Fitr this year across the globe. These are NOT my own photos and I have given photo credits. Enjoy!