Eid al-Fitr (pronounced Ide al-Fitter), which means Festival of Breaking Fast, is one of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam (the other being Eid al-Adha). It marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting from dawn to sunset.
Ramadan started April 2 this year and it ends May 1. Muslims fast by refraining from food and drink during daylight hours. It is a divine course offered to Muslims all around the world to teach self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for others. Our assignments include prayers, reflection, increased charity and spiritual growth through fasting. After completing this course, Eid (in short) is like our graduation ceremony. It is a joyful time as we begin another year and remember the valuable lessons that Ramadan has taught us.
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated during the first three days of Shawwal, which is the 10th month of the Islamic calendar and immediately follows Ramadan. The preparations start a few days before the Eid. Together, families enjoy decorating the house with Eid decorations. Children look forward to collecting Eid candies at every home they visit, much like Halloween. Children also get to wear their special Eid outfits.
Adults prepare baklava and non-alcoholic drinks for their Eid guests. I still remember the taste of my mother’s highbush cranberry juice that can be found only during Eid. Our houses all receive a special Eid cleaning, and the night before the Eid, we go outside for the sighting of the crescent moon that officially confirms the end of Ramadan. When everything is ready for Eid, our excitement level is at its highest.
We wake up very early on the first day of Eid, dress up and wear our best and finest clothes. The new clothing represents spiritual renewal. We then visit our local mosques for the Eid prayer. This prayer may only be performed in the congregation, and some mosques are not large enough to accommodate everyone inside at one time. I remember practicing Eid prayer in a school gym as well. Eid is a time for us to bond as a community and devote ourselves to prayer. We ask for forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings throughout the Eid prayer.
After the prayer, everyone in the mosque shakes hands and celebrates each other’s Eid by saying “Eid Mubarak!” (Blessed Festival!). It is very powerful in building a greater sense of community. After returning from prayers, we gather with our immediate family members to enjoy our first daylight meal since the start of Ramadan. This Eid breakfast is quite important since it allows us to come together with our loved ones under the same roof, much as Thanksgiving dinner is celebrated. We prepare various traditional dishes, including sweets.
During the rest of the Eid, we visit our relatives, friends and neighbors. Children celebrate Eid by kissing our hands and getting a small amount of money in return. They also visit neighbors to celebrate Eid and get candies. I still remember how I competed for money and the number of candies I collected with my friends during my childhood years. We spent our time opening gifts, eating delicious food and celebrating the joy of Eid.
Eid is not just for Muslims. We encourage our non-Muslim friends to visit our homes to join in the celebrations, enjoy food and exchange gifts. Eid Mubarak to everyone!
Mehmet Aktas is an assistant professor and John T. Beresford Endowed Chair in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Central Oklahoma. He has been teaching and doing research in mathematics for the last 15 years. He is married and a father of two sons. When not teaching and doing research, Mehmet enjoys playing soccer and going on hikes.