EID 101: A Guide to Islam's Most Festive Holiday

Learn about the Muslim holiday known as Eid ul-Fitr
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Eid ul-Fitr

What it Is: Eid, also known as Eid ul-Fitr or Id al-Fitr, is a joyful festival that marks the end of the 30-day fasting period observed during Ramadan. The festival is meant to give gratitude to God.

Who Celebrates It: Muslims all over the world in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

The History: Historians have noted the existence of Eid-like festivals prior to the advent of Islam, including similar celebrations by Israelites. The Islamic prophet Muhammad, however, was the first to mark these two days as a time of Muslim celebration and thanking God.

Common Traditions: Eid can be celebrated for up to three days and is marked by phrases such as "Happy Eid." Muslims are encouraged to forgive and forget any grievances they have with others during the holiday.

During the early morning hours of Eid, observant Muslims typically attend religious services that include several prayers and a sermon. These services are generally followed by large family gatherings in which gifts are exchanged.

Eid Around the World:
In the Middle East and Africa, Eid is observed with two- and three-day national holidays; schools and offices shut down in celebration of the festivities. In Saudi Arabia, Muslims decorate their houses in extravagant lighting displays, give toys and money to the children in their lives and, occasionally, hand out gifts to strangers. In Turkey, celebrations take on a bit of Halloween-esque tradition. There, children go door-to-door to wish people Happy Eid and are given candy in return. In Egypt, neighborhoods are dotted with local carnivals.

Although most Chinese people are not Muslim, Eid is a public holiday in the two states of Ningxia and Xinjiang, which houses China's most famous tourist attraction, the Terracotta Warriors.

Cities in the United States with large Muslim populations acknowledge Eid as well. New York City suspends its alternate side parking rules during Eid; in Houston, and large services are offered downtown and at the city's convention center. The U.S. Postal Service has marked the holiday with several commemorative postage stamps.

Fun Fact: Traditional and local sweets often play a role in Eid, such as baklava (in Turkey) and cookies dotted with powdered sugar.

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.

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