How Eid al-Fitr is Celebrated Around the World
by Noorhan Amani
Eid al-Fitr is a holiday celebrated by Muslims all over the world after Ramadan, a month of fasting (It was celebrated on July 6th this year!). Eid al-Fitr is one of two Eids, the other Eid being Eid Al-Adha. Eid is a time of joy, friends, family, and delicious food. Though Eid is celebrated all over the globe with the same fervor, Muslims from various countries follow different cultural traditions in preparation for and during the holiday. Here is how Eid al-Fitr is celebrated in three different countries:
In the US, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated a bit differently than in Muslim-majority countries. Since a wide variety of ethnic groups and nationalities make up America's Muslim population, Eid celebrations are influenced by a number of cultures. Usually, special Eid bazaars are held by Muslim communities a few days before Eid, where people can get henna done and purchase jewelry, clothing, and gifts in preparation for the Eid-day celebrations. In many communities with a large Pakistani/Indian-American/Desi population, Chaand Raat (Chaand Raat literally means "Night of the Moon", signifying the sighting of the new moon which marks the beginning of Eid) events are held, where community members can do last-minute shopping for Eid outfits, accessories, and gifts.
Chaand raat events also feature music, singing, and other festivities to create an atmosphere of joy right before Eid. On Eid morning, Eid prayers are held in areas such as parks, stadiums, convention centers, and hotels, to accommodate large crowds. After Eid prayers, donuts and coffee are often served (this has become somewhat of an American-Muslim tradition, at least where I live!). Families go home and have a hearty breakfast (usually consists of sweets!) or go to a restaurant for brunch. Parents give their children Eidi, which is a monetary Eid gift. The rest of the day is spent differently from family to family (mainly based on their ethnic background). Community mosques often hold Eid carnivals featuring various rides, rock-climbing, petting zoos, and festival food.
In Bangladesh, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with much enthusiasm and excitement. The last few days of Ramadan are busy as people go shopping for multiple outfits to wear to a number of parties, known as dawaats. Preparation of food to be eaten on Eid day begins several days in advance. Biryani (a spicy rice dish with meat), kababs, and numerous sweets, such as shemai (a vermicelli milk pudding), kaalo jam (fried dough balls in syrup), payesh (a rice milk pudding), and doi (a sweet yogurt), are made. People living in the large cities, such as Dhaka and Chittagong, travel back to their home villages to spend Eid with close family members.
The night before Eid al-Fitr, people go out to look for the new moon, which signifies the beginning of Eid and the new month of Shawwal. If the moon is sighted, Eid is confirmed, and Chaand Raat celebrations are held all throughout the night, with women and girls adorning themselves with mehndi, children playing games, and families just having a good time. On Eid morning, Eid prayers are held in large, open fields known as Eidgahs. Everyone is wearing their best clothes, with men and boys usually wearing the traditional panjabi paijama and women and girls wearing salwar kameez or shari. Elders give children eidi, and the rest of the day is spent snacking on sweets, known as mishti, feasting on rich foods, visiting friends and family members, and attending a dawaat or two.
In Malaysia, Eid al-Fitr is known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri. The day before Eid, Malaysian households are often very busy, preparing a number of dishes such as ketupat (rice cakes in coconut leaves) and lemang (rice in coconut milk cooked in bamboo). The night before Eid, members of the government go out to look for the new moon, and if it is sighted, the next day is declared as Eid on national television. On Eid day, people mainly wear traditional clothes, with men wearing baju melayu and women wearing baju kurung. Malaysians often hold open houses at their homes on Eid day, a time period during which any friends, family, or neighbors (Muslim or Non-Muslim) are able to visit, feast on a meal, and enjoy themselves.