Religion 101

The end of the Islamic month of Ramadan is fast approaching — and with it, the conclusion of the daylight fasting that Muslims worldwide have been faithfully observing throughout this holiest of months on the Islamic calendar.

No food or drink is permitted from dawn until dusk during the entire month of Ramadan. That, however, will soon come to an end for this year, as the conclusion of the monthlong fast is celebrated by the big celebratory post-Ramadan feast of Eid al-Fitr (“Festival of Fast-Breaking”).

Falling upon the first day of the next month in the Islamic calendar following the month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (or just Eid for short) is a major holiday observed throughout the Islamic world, characterized both by pious expressions of faith and thanksgiving, as well as by joyous festivities.

Eid begins when Ramadan ends — at sunset. Unlike the Western (Gregorian) calendar, according to which each day technically ends and the next day begins at the stroke of midnight, for the Islamic calendar the days end and begin at sunset. On the last day of the month of Ramadan, as soon as the new crescent moon is spotted, that month is over, and the next month has begun — and with it, Eid al-Fitr also arrives.

This year (2012), Eid al-Fitr is anticipated to begin on August 18 or 19, depending upon when the new moon is officially sighted (so this may vary from place to place).

During Eid, special congregational prayers and acts of charity toward the poor are accompanied by elaborate festive communal meals, special foods, family gatherings, and gift-giving. Homes are decorated, and new clothes put on; schools, government offices, and some businesses may close. Eid celebrations can last up to three days, depending upon the country, region, or local cultural tradition.

So, to Muslims everywhere: Eid Sa’id (“Happy Eid”)! And Eid Mubarak (“Blessed Eid”)!