A festive feast: Eid-ul-Fitr


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.

3. Feast!

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:

Burfee- a sweet made from made from condensed milk, sugar & nuts.

Chicken spring rolls

Haleem- Literally, Haleem means ‘Patient and Merciful’. A thick soup made of Mutton, Wheat, Legumes & spices.

Nan- A type of leavened bread, typically of teardrop shape and traditionally cooked in a clay oven.

The main courses- chicken biryani, chicken curry and mince curry.

Dhall- a spicy, aromatic side dish made with lentils, onions, chillies and seasonings.

Dessert- Cheese cake & milk tart

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!

Eid 2

A Muslim family prays on the first day of Eid al-Fitr at Niu Jie Mosque to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on August 19, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang – AFP/Getty Images)

Eid 8

Indian Muslim devotees offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the historic Taj Mahal in Agra on August 20, 2012. (Strdel – AFP/Getty Images)

Eid 14

Young Muslim girls show their hands decorated with henna after attending prayers on Eid Al-Fitr at the Regent’s Park Mosque in London on August 19, 2012. (Adek Berry – AFP/Getty Images)

Eid 16

A Muslim boy prays at the start of Eid al-Fitr at the Peace and Friendship stadium in Greece near Athens on August 19, 2012. (Louisa Gouliamaki – AFP/Getty Images)

Eid 18

Filipino Muslim women gather to pray celebrating the start of Eid al-Fitr in Manila on August 19, 2012. (Noel Celis – AFP/Getty Images)


21 thoughts on “A festive feast: Eid-ul-Fitr

  1. Thanks for your explanation of Eid! Your feast looks great. FYI You can get condensed milk at most shops in Korea. It’s called yeon yu and comes in the same kind of plastic bottle mayo and other sauces come in, but it’s with the milk in the refrigerated section.

  2. Hi aneesa 🙂 thx for your nice post about Eid , FYI i’m from Indonesia and yes Eid call “lebaran” here 🙂 i love and followed this blog too :p in order too learning english well 😀 keep posting yaaaa

  3. We were in Jordan a couple of years ago and we learned that the festival of Eid was to happen as we were leaving the country. But there was an air of anticipation, with lots of little herds of goats on street corners. It was sad we could not stay to see what was going to happen at your ‘Christmas’.
    Lovely photos. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Mashaallah.. mashaallah..!! what lovely post and really yummy and beautiful pictures..;):) eid is happiness in itself. you looking good in the pics,..:)

  5. one of my friends is Muslim and she and her family live in Glasgow, Scotland. I was always so interested to hear what types of events they would be going to each year and how they would celebrate as I knew how important Eid is in the Islamic calendar. Her family mainly lives in Libya and Egypt, so from what she has said I can understand how hard it must have been for you to be away from them over that time. We are lucky in that Glasgow has a very active and accepting Muslim community and there is a huge feast that I understand most of the people who celebrate Eid in the area go to – can you imagine the scale of that kind of feast!?!?

    thanks for such an insighful post, i think you’ll have educated a lot of people.

    Also, I hope you guys had a great time!! Happy Eid!! 😀 x

      • i really really wanted too, she’s cooked for me before and it was AMAZING! beaten by few others, though I do have an almost indecent love of Indian food 🙂 but, sadly she often had to get the day off school to go celebrate it – since I wasn’t family… or Muslim… our school might not have been too happy about that XD

  6. Although all of the dishes you guys cooked are everyday eatables for me, since I live in Pakistan. But somehow seeing you talk about them in such an explanatory manner is so amusing and gives me this weird tingly feeling. I don’t know why! Haleem is haleem, and naans are naans. I could never explain them.
    I absolutely loved this post! And your jora is lovely! Hope you had a wonderful Eid..
    and Eid Mubarak! 🙂
    reblogging at http://www.thelogbooker.wordpress.com

  7. Pingback: LOG ENTRY #27 – (A long overdue) Eid Mubarak! « thelogbooker

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