Understanding Islamic Holidays: Eid Al-Fitr

By: Fatima Mirza

Fasting—it is a beautiful concept that many religions believe in and practice in their own unique ways. For Muslims, it is one of the most spiritual times of the year where they fast from sunrise to sunset, which is approximately 16 hours in Chicago. This goes on for 30 days, and it is definitely a challenge for me as a Muslim high schooler. This period of fasting, called Ramadan, is one of my favorite times of the year because I go to my mosque everyday to open my fast with my friends and community members. However, it is difficult because the month of fasting falls during the end of the school year. One of my favorite experiences during this month is answering the questions I receive from fellow classmates. I love to explain the concept of fasting, and I often discover similarities between their religious practices and mine. I tell them the purpose of fasting is to remind us of how fortunate we are to have basic necessities such as food and water. It increases self control and discipline as well. During this month, my friends are especially supportive. They understand what is and isn’t allowed during this month. On the last day of school, my friend asked me if I had anything to look forward to over the summer. I told her I was very excited for my favorite holiday, Eid. She had heard of the word but had no idea what it was. When she had asked me this question, I was on my nineteenth day of fasting. I took this chance to explain Eid, a holiday celebrated by all Muslims.

The Islamic calendar is dependent on the moon. The moon determines if a new month starts or not. On the 29th day of Ramadan, the ninth month, people go outside and check if the moon is visible. This is the first Eid-related event that people participate in and is a fun family activity too. If the moon is visible, that means a new month is beginning the next day. With this definition, Eid is the first day of the tenth month, and it marks the end of Ramadan. If the moon isn’t visible, that means Ramadan will be 30 days long and that Eid isn’t the next day. Depending where you are in the world, the visibility of the moon may be different, which is why sometimes Muslims celebrate this holiday on different days. My family always debates whether Eid will be the next day or if Ramadan will be 30 days this year, and it is very entertaining to listen to people’s predictions. Usually local mosques will send out messages on whether it’s Eid or not. Once it has been officially declared, everyone starts calling and sending messages to family and friends to wish them “Eid Mubarak”, which means happy Eid.

It is tradition to buy new outfits for Eid, and many women decorate their hands with henna. On the day of Eid, there is a special prayer at mosques in the morning that everyone attends, and they wear their new clothes there. It is also mandatory to give zakat, or charity, on this day if one is able to afford it.  Every year, I go for the Eid prayers with my family and we eat lots of sweets on that day to make up for the past month. It is also common for family members and elders to give younger children gifts called Eidi, which is money. This is also part of the reason why younger children love this holiday.

After the prayers, which end before noon, many families also host Eid parties at their houses and invite family to spend time with. This holiday really focuses on celebrating with your family and the community after a whole month of spirituality. As I explained all this to my friend, she saw my excitement and told me she might try to fast and celebrate Eid with me next year!