Eid-ul-Fitr, which translates to "festival of breaking the fast" is a time of rejoicing with family and friends. It's a blissful celebration that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan when millions of Muslims enthusiastically wait for the new moon sighting to be confirmed, to celebrate the end of their fasting journey.
Muslims around the world mark the day by taking part in a host of activities. Depending on where you are, the festival may have a more localised name. In Turkic countries, it is often referred to as Bayram, whereas some North African cultures refer to it as Eid Seghir or the little Eid. Under usual circumstances, the day starts with prayers, and a big meal is usually the main event, but there are lots of ways and traditions by which people celebrate the special occasion.
The process of ghusl, morning prayers, zakat al-Fitr, and visiting is common practice for Muslims everywhere. Apart from these practices, unique traditions and customs are present amongst individual Muslim communities all around the world.
From Turkey to Iceland, check out some Eid traditions around the world that differ by region but encompass the same feelings of joy across the globe:
In Turkey, Eid-ul-Fitr is known as Ramazan Bayrami (Ramadan festival) or Seker Bayrami (festivals of sweets). People wear their new clothes referred to as bayramlik and wish each other Bayraminiz Mubarek Olsun that translates to 'May your Bayram (Eid) be blessed'. It is a public holiday, where government offices and schools are generally closed for the whole three-day period of the festivities.
It is of utmost importance to honour elderly citizens by kissing their right hand and placing it on one's forehead all the while conveying the Bayram greetings. It is also important for young children to go from door to door around their neighbourhood, wishing everyone a "Happy Bayram," for which they are rewarded with candy, traditional sweets such as baklava and Turkish Delight, chocolates, or a small amount of money at every door, similar to the custom of Halloween in the United States.
Eid-ul-Fitr is locally known as Lebaran in Indonesia and it is the most important holiday for Indonesians. Similar to other Muslim nations, Indonesians also celebrate with prayers, gatherings, and family reunions.
One of the foremost traditions is Mudik (homecoming) where those who leave their hometowns to work in the big cities travel back to their places to spend Eid with their families. A ritual called the Halal Bihalal is also performed during or after Eid which involves seeking forgiveness from everyone including friends, colleagues, neighbours, and relatives.
Kids are gifted with colourful envelopes of money by their elders when they visit them. Most Indonesian Muslims wear cultural clothing on Eid day, differing for both men and women in style. Relatives also visit graves of their loved ones during the festival of Eid.
Eid in Malaysia is a joyous occasion like anywhere else, and most people travel to their hometowns to be with their families. People decorate their homes with oil lamps known as Pelita and cook traditional foods for Eid, including Ketupat or rice dumplings, and Rendang, a popular meat dish to honour guests in South East Asian countries.
Locally known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, meaning the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, it is a day when traditional dresses are worn by all.
Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations have always been like an open house in Malaysia, with everyone being welcomed in every home and an open door festive atmosphere that greets people to enjoy the meals and have a good time, without differentiating between them based on economic status, religion, or caste. Families usually take turns in opening their homes to guests for the day.
African countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia, South Africa, Nigeria, and several others, celebrate Eid in a similar fashion with prayers in the morning at the local mosques before the grand family get-together, where local food items play a dominant role.
In Morocco, traditional dresses are worn by men and women, and Moroccan pancakes are a breakfast staple, along with their famous mint tea, while in Somalia, Halvo is the dessert of the day.
In Mombasa, Muslims mark the last ten days of Ramzan (known as Kumi la mwisho) with street festivals and socialising. The festival, which is open in the evening when the daily fast ends, offer people a chance to buy presents for friends and family. Storytellers also roam the streets in some places during Eid, entertaining kids with folktales.
Leading up to the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims in Iceland also partake in the dusk-to-dawn fast during Ramzan. In the peak of summer, the sun remains up in the sky for a longer time than usual, the sun setting at midnight and returning two hours later. This means that Muslims living in Iceland are required to fast up to 22 hours a day.
While this sounds like a very challenging feat, Islamic scholars and experts have offered an alternative to those who live in the land of the midnight sun. Icelandic Muslims can choose to break their fast based on the timings of sunrise and sunset from the nearest country or observe Saudi Arabia's timezone.
The auspicious day is celebrated in one of the few mosques in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Guests who visit the mosque come armed with an international buffet of mouth-watering foods, including foods from Indonesian, Egyptian and Eritrean cuisines to celebrate this holy and joyous occasion. Much to the delight of the children, the little ones wear their best clothes and exchange gifts with fellow friends and family members.
The whole idea of the festival is that whoever you meet, you try and create a feeling of goodwill with them. Any feeling of animosity is put aside, at least for one day. While there are lots of things that everyone will do on 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.
Most Muslims celebrate Eid in the same traditional sense but of course, cultural traditions and practices for the occasion differ from East to West and from one country to another.
Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, let us hope we can leave behind these challenging times together for a period of happiness, compassion, and peace. Eid Mubarak!