What is Eid al-Fitr? How Muslims Celebrate at the End of Ramadan

Eid mubarak with moon

Muslims all over the world start the first day of Shawwal, the tenth lunar month, by offering zakat (alms) and a pre-dawn salat (prayer). And with that, the sunup to sundown, month-long Ramadan fast ends and the Eid al-Fitr celebration begins.

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The meaning of Eid al-Fitr  

“The holiday is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a time where we are in worship and we give to charity. It is a time for renewal of the spirit, of my faith, of my connection to Allah—the Arabic word for God—and to the community.” —Mahnaz Shabbir, diversity speaker and consultant, Shabbir Advisors

Eid al-Fitr (pronounced eed uhl-FEE-truh) means “the Festival (or Feast) of Breaking the Fast.” Celebrated for a day or three (it varies around the world), Eid al-Fitr is a time for giving thanks to Allah, expressing joy for blessings, letting go of ill will and bad feelings, and welcoming others with open arms.

Muslims greet each other with “Eid Mubarak,” which translates to “Blessed Festival,” “Blessed Feast” or “Blessed Celebration” (less literally, it’s a wish for a happy Eid).

There are different ways to respond when someone says “Eid Mubarak,” depending on your part of the world:

  • “Khair Mubarak” is a wish for goodwill.
  • “Jazak Allah Khair” means “May Allah reward you with goodness.”
  • “Taqaballahu minna wa minkum” means “May Allah accept it from you and us.” “It” can mean good deeds, worship, fasting—essentially, the spiritual commitment, good deeds and sacrifices made during Ramadan.
  • You can also respond simply with “Eid Mubarak to you.”

 

“Another Eid tradition is to receive and send Eid cards to family that don’t live close. I send my cards roughly 20 days before Eid so the recipients have at least a week or more to proudly display all the cards they have received from family, friends and loved ones.” —Sam Lodhi, Hallmark manager

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Ways Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr  

There are nearly two billion people in the world who follow Islam and the teachings of its holy book, the Qu’ran. And there are as many ways to observe Eid al-Fitr as there are countries where it’s celebrated.

“I love Eid prayers because it’s like a mini–United Nations of people wearing various ethnic clothing and speaking various languages—and then we come together to do the Eid prayer in Arabic.” —Mahnaz Shabbir

Rituals include:

  • Paying Zakat al-Fitr, donations given by families who have enough money so those without can afford to celebrate Eid al-Fitr
  • Offering Eid prayers as a community, in open spaces
  • Cleaning up and dressing in your best or new clothing
  • Visiting loved ones to eat, celebrate and exchange gifts
  • Enjoying sweets—Eid al-Fitr is sometimes called “Sugar Fest”
  • Sending Eid al-Fitr cards to loved ones

 

“On Eid day we wear new clothes, new shoes and new socks. In the morning we all shower and get ready to go to mosque to offer Eid prayers. After that I remember our friends and family invite us to come and have food with them. I remember sometimes after prayer going to four or five different homes to celebrate Eid with them. By the time we got home it was time to go to bed.” —Seema Ahmed, proud Naano (grandmother)

“On the day of Eid, we wake up in the morning, put on new clothes we bought specially for Eid and get ready for the Eid prayers. The prayers last about 45 minutes, at the end of which we greet our relatives and friends by hugging each other three times from side to side, shaking their hands and greeting them with ‘Eid Mubarak.’ When we get home from Eid prayers, I always make seven-layer parathas (basically a made-from-scratch fried tortilla) and fried eggs with black tea for all my kids for breakfast (a Lodhi family favorite). This is something my mom did ever since we were kids. I usually have multiple sweets like creamy vermicellis, rice pudding, cookies and hot tea ready for our guests who come to our home. For my family in Pakistan—especially my elders—I call and greet them personally and receive their blessings.” —Sam Lodhi

What are the two Eid festivals?  

Islamic traditions include two holy celebrations called Eid:

  • Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, takes place after the Hajj pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, beginning on the 10th day of the 12th lunar month, Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasting four days. Eid al-Adha commemorates Allah’s test of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham): Ibrahim was prepared to sacrifice his firstborn son as commanded, but at the last minute, Allah told him to sacrifice an animal instead.
  • Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Breaking the Fast, takes place after the Ramadan fast beginning on the first day of the tenth lunar month, Shawwal, and lasting three days. Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Qu’ran by Allah—speaking through the angel Gabriel—to the Prophet Mohammed.

 

“It really is such a happy feeling to accomplish the fasting in Ramadan and pray that we are still alive to be there next year and be in community.” —Mahnaz Shabbir