As the holy month of Ramadan comes to a close, Muslims all over the world prepare for the joyous occasion known as Eid ul-Fitr, the three-day-long feast that marks the culmination of the month of fasting. Muslims celebrate two main holidays each year: the first, Eid ul-Fitr, follows the month of Ramadan; and the second, Eid ul-Adha, takes place at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, and marks the date when Abraham's faith was tested by God, who in the end did not ask him to sacrifice his son.
The month of Ramadan was an exercise in humility, allowing Muslims of means to feel the pangs of thirst and hunger that the less fortunate members of society face every day of their lives. That message of less consumption and more charity is very much at the forefront of many Muslims' minds during the Eid holidays. Eid ul-Fitr is a holiday for Muslims to express their joy at completing the month of fasting and their thankfulness to God for his bounty.
On this day, Muslims follow the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, which were laid out centuries ago. Muslims often buy new clothes for themselves and their children so as to fulfil the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, which is to attend the Eid prayer in their finest clothing.
Also in the example of the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims—be it in Kuwait or California—will wake up the first day of Eid and head straight to the mosque to pray and listen to the imam make a short sermon, often reminding Muslims about the importance of Eid. Generally the day is spent enjoying food and the company of family and friends.
The Eid holidays put children in the spotlight as Muslim parents and grandparents shower the youngest members of the family with money and sweets on the first day of celebrations. Muslim parents often take their children to amusement parks, zoos and toy stores during the days of Eid. However, moderation is the key: Muslim children might get a new toy or two, but over-the-top consumption is not what Eid is about.
Emphasis is also placed on the family bond during Eid. Muslims will often visit elderly members of the family to congratulate them on the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid. A trip to the local bakery is also a must as it is common for guests to visit and hospitality dictates offering cakes and freshly brewed tea or coffee to everyone who stops by.
It is not uncommon for non-Muslims to be part of Eid festivities. Many Muslims, especially in the Middle East, are very open to sharing their holiday with their non-Muslim friends and co-workers. Some non-Muslims even fast occasionally with their friends during Ramadan to share the experience. And non-Muslims are often invited to share in the iftar dinners at the end of the daily fast.
In Kuwait, during Ramadan and Eid, many Muslim organisations launch media campaigns in local newspapers to educate non-Muslims about the holiday, which literally overtakes the country. It is very common to see non-Muslims standing in the streets watching as the Eid prayers begin in the mosques. Almost all mosques are filled to capacity and Muslims have no choice but to form lines in the streets so as to perform the Eid prayer with the rest of the congregation.
While the Eid holiday brings joy to many a Muslim's heart, it is also tinged with bittersweet emotions that Ramadan, a time many Muslims feel provides an opportunity to become spiritually closer to God through good deeds and prayer, has drawn to a close.
* Sumayyah Meehan is a journalist and convert to Islam currently residing in Kuwait. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).