What is Eid al-Fitr and how is it celebrated?
Learn all about the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, cultural traditions and the delicious foods eaten during the breaking of the fast of Ramadan
What is Eid al-Fitr?
Eid al-Fitr also known as, the 'festival of breaking the fast' is a joyous occasion that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims, when they abstain from food and drink between dawn and sunset.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and Eid al-Fitr is significant in celebrating the end of a very intense month of fasting, prayer, self-reflection and charity. It is a time for families and friends to come together and rejoice with food and drink, gift each other presents and dress up in new clothes.
Keep reading to discover what rituals are observed and what mouth-watering dishes you can make to join in with the celebrations.
What are the main themes of Eid?
The traditions of Eid al-Fitr can vary somewhat since Muslims originate from many different countries, especially when it comes to food, however some things are universal.
Eid is centred around celebrating the end of a month of fasting and spending time with family, friends and people within the community. Giving thanks to God is core, which is why on the morning of Eid, Muslims offer a special congregational Eid prayer.
In the last days of Ramadan, the head of each family is obligated to pay a charitable tax, known as Fitra or Zakat Al Fitr, to help those who are less fortunate celebrate the occasion. Even when celebrating, Muslims must be mindful of families within the wider community who may be struggling, so no one is left out.
Muslims dress up on Eid morning in their best, often brand-new clothes and many decorate their houses for the occasion. Muslims greet one another on Eid day by saying 'Eid Mubarak' which means 'blessed Eid' and also exchange hugs. This is to create a feeling of good will and unity. People also visit relatives throughout the day, enjoying food at every stop.
More like this
When is Eid al-Fitr?
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated during the first three days of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar and starts with the sighting of the new moon. Muslims in Muslim countries tend to celebrate Eid for three consecutive days, whilst Muslims in the UK may take a day off work or school to celebrate. Since Muslims use a lunar calendar, the Gregorian date of Eid al-Fitr changes yearly, with Eid being eleven days earlier each year.
Muslims also celebrate another Eid festival known as Eid al Adha which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son upon God's command. Eid al Adha is also significant because it is celebrated on the last day of Hajj, another one of the five pillars of Islam, which is the holy pilgrimage Muslims make to Makkah (Mecca).
How is Eid celebrated?
In the weeks leading up to Eid, Muslims shop for new clothes and gifts. It is customary for Muslims to decorate their houses and dress up in their best attire on the day.
For breakfast, Muslims indulge in rich dishes before offering congregational Eid prayers. Prayers are offered at the mosque or outdoor spaces to facilitate the large numbers of people attending. Families and friends then slowly gather together, throughout the day, to enjoy a rich, opulent feast, at which time loved ones also often exchange gifts and money.
What food is eaten for Eid al-Fitr?
Eid is all about feasting, since it comes after a month of fasting (Muslims are not permitted to fast on this day). Whilst there is no set menu for what should be on the table, dishes prepared are always rich and decadent. To create your own menu of mouth-watering dishes, try our favourite Eid recipes.
Savoury snacks will often include samosas, nunor bora (salty rice flour puffs), meat-filled pastries, kebabs and veggie pakoras or a chicken pakora or two. Sweet snacks may include, sheer kurma, halwa, handesh and coconut samosas.
For starters you may want some chicken tikka or a Bengali roast chicken dish. No Eid banquet is complete without a biryani or pilau of some sort. Bengalis for example almost always cook akhni fulab (also known as akhni fulao) for Eid, a rice dish that is cooked with tender masala-cooked meat pieces. Something a little simpler like jeera rice, can be just as satisfying. You can serve any of these rice dishes alongside a classic lamb and potato curry, beef bhuna or chicken korma. A salad is also a must, something like a classic tomato salad is simple but goes well with the rich meatiness of everything it is typically served with.
Some people also like to cook dishes like lamb shanks, known as nihari, and serve it with either a flatbread, say naan.
If you have any space left after snacking and lunching, then you may consider finishing off with some homemade gulab jamun, rasmalai, kheer or firni for afters. Sweet zarda and handmade biscuits like nankhatai are firm favourites, especially with a cup of tea. If however, you're not keen on Indian sweets then a fresh cream cake is perfectly acceptable too. Who could say no to cake?
Try our mouth-watering Eid recipes...
What's your favourite Eid recipe? Leave a comment below...