Eid al-Fitr: The Similarities and Differences in how it's Celebrated Worldwide

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AngelPolacco

Title Image: Tribune International

After the Holy month of Ramadan ends, the celebration of Eid al-Fitr commences this week in Qatar and around the world. Depending on the sighting of the moon it is said to take place sometime this week. 

Most cultures celebrate Eid in the same way. Most people follow the Sunnah, so most acts and practices are standardized in terms of religion. In following the Sunnah, people are encouraged to smile more at others, wear a new article of clothing during Eid, give as much charity as possible, say Eid Mubarak to fellow Muslims, and even to be forgiving towards others. These are among a few of the religious rituals that are upheld.

People also wake up early in the morning for prayer and when they return they usually relax, sleep, or prepare for family and friend gatherings for the day and the rest of the week. Another standardized practice during Eid involves the gifting of money or toys to young children. And of course the celebration is not complete without a banquet or feast of some kind. 

However some cultures and individual families have their own traditions when celebrating Eid as well, particularly in terms of food and clothing. It’s important to note that most of these cultures that are away from their home countries adapt to different traditions than they normally would.


South Asian Countries:

Indian Muslims usually commemorate Eid during Chaand Raat, which literally translates to “night of the moon”. Before Eid starts, women usually go out shopping for new clothes, bangles, and accessories. And on the night of the sighting of the moon, women usually have mehndi, or henna, applied as common practice. For clothing, women usually wear long modest dresses, fancy shalwar kameezes, or kurti shalwar. Men also tend to wear either kurti shalwar or sherwani. For food, it ranges from a variety of curries and rice dishes, however the main event is typically biryani. Women also spend the day preparing mithai (sweets), such as gulab jamun (sweet round desserts) and sivaiyyan (vermicelli). On Eid day, celebrations are pretty standard to the rest of the Muslim world. 

Pakistani Muslims typically celebrate Eid the same way as Indian Muslims and wear similar clothing as well. However since they’re living in Doha, they don’t get to partake in the festivities of their home back in Pakistan. They visit their family members who are also living here, and celebrate with family friends as well. In terms of food, it’s very similar to India’s, including dishes like Haleem and Nihari, but the signature Pakistani dessert is Sheer Kurma (milk with dates, although contains much more).


Arab Countries:
 

Arab Muslims generally celebrate in the same way, with visiting family, exchanging gifts, giving money to children, and hosting gatherings. However in terms of fashion most women wear fancy and elaborate jalabiyas that tend to reflect the designs of their home nation (e.g. Palestinians have different styles in contrast to Lebanese), and men tend to wear thobe or dress in formal attire. Most Arab women also partake in the application of henna as well. In terms of food, common dishes and items in the Arab world include Ka’ak, Ma'amoul, Mansaf, Mlokiyeh, Mahshi, Warag Anab, and Knafeh.


North Africa: 

Muslims from North Africa also follow the standardized way of celebrating Eid. In Turkey specifically, they refer to Eid as Bayram. Turkish Muslims, when back home, tend to visit their cemeteries to pay respects to their deceased loved ones as well, which is not common in other cultures. In terms of cuisine, North African Muslims usually prepare tagine (cooked in a clay pot), couscous, Baklava, and Turkish Delight, among others. 

Africa:  

Ritual-wise, Africa is very similar to the rest of the Muslim world as well. In terms of clothing African Muslims also have similar styles to the Arab and Asian world in terms of thobes and kurta for men and long dresses (similar to jalabiyas) for women. Their clothing also tends to be more colorful with bold patterns and prints. For food, each African nation has its own special dishes. For Somalia it's halwo, which is halwa and is made during festive occasions. Sudan also has a similar cuisine to most Arab nations and its people tend to enjoy sweets and biscuits as well as ka'ak. 


In speaking to some individuals, their families have their own Eid al-Fitr traditions. 

One Palestinian-Syrian told me that her family would wait for her uncle to come back from prayer before commencing celebration and enjoying lunch. Her uncle was the only other relative that her immediate family had in Doha to celebrate with, so it became a tradition for him to start the celebration. 

Another Palestinian family told me that it's become a tradition for them to order fast-food, specifically KFC, on the day of Eid, and that they've never cooked or prepared any kind of traditional food at home. They also mentioned how the younger generation would "small-talk" with the adults to try and get their Eidi (Eid money). 

An Egyptian-American shared that on the night before Eid, her whole family gathers on the last Iftar and reflect on what they learned during the month of Ramadan. After their reflection they exchange gifts either in the form of money or something material that their family member has wanted for a long time, and it usually surprises them. The point of this is to share happiness with each other since that's one of the main focal points of Eid. After the gift exchange the family would sit together, eat, and relax all night until the Eid prayer in the morning. Then they get ready in their best clothes, take photos, and make their way to the mosque. On their way there they recite a prayer loudly (considered Sunnah). After prayer, they typically sleep in to be energized for the festivities and celebrations that will happen later on in the evening, and repeat this cycle for the next two days, minus the morning Eid prayer. 

All-in-all Eid al-Fitr is mostly spent with family and close friends, and celebrates the end of Ramadan through religious practices, gatherings, and delicious food. 


How do you celebrate Eid al-Fitr? Tell us about your personal traditions in the comment section below!