The moon has just been sighted.
You’re walking down the streets and are greeted by the smell of freshly-made sweets being prepared on the streets. You see families strolling together, moms bargaining with vendors for some last-minute hauls, and little girls sitting with hands outstretched, getting intricate henna patterns shaped on their palms.
Lights adorn the entire street. The excitement is unmistakable. The joy in the air is unmistakable. Such are the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr all over the world.
Eid Al-Fitr is perhaps the dearest religious celebration to Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of Ramadan, an Islamic month in which Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. The end of the month culminates in a joyous celebration expressed through food, charity, and family gatherings.
Though the picture painted above is common, Muslims of different cultures have different ways of celebrating Eid. Let’s explore how rich and diverse Eid Al-Fitr celebrations and traditions are all over the world.
Importance of Understanding Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs
At the onset, it might seem that all Eid Al-Fitr traditions and customs must be similar across the world. While it could be somewhat true, one cannot ignore the diversity and unique customs of Muslims from different countries. Although all Muslims follow the same religion and religious requirements of the day, it is quite interesting to learn how their ways of expressing joy and celebration can be unique.
Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs in the Middle East
With so many Muslim-majority countries, Eid Al-Fitr is often the biggest event in the Middle East. Traditionally, Middle Easterners celebrate it for three days; however, some countries have even longer celebrations.
A typical Eid Al-Fitr morning would begin quite early over breakfast. This is important to signify that the fasting month has ended, as Muslims are forbidden to fast on Eid. Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) reported:
“O people, the Messenger of Allah forbade fasting on these two days (i.e., the two Eids). On the first of them, you break your fast and celebrate your festival, and on the second, you eat from the meat of your sacrifices.” – Musnad Ahmad 224, 225
Breakfast is then followed by Eid prayer. This is a special kind of prayer, different from the Fard (obligatory) prayer offered by Muslims 5 times a day. Mosques make special arrangements for these prayers. Some communities also perform these prayers in open spaces so that they may be offered in huge numbers. The prayer is followed by a special Eid sermon by the Imam.
Moreover, decorative lighting is a pretty common theme across most Middle Eastern countries during Eid. People decorate their houses, and businesses decorate their shops – the entire city lights up!
Here’s how some specific Middle Eastern countries celebrate Eid Al-Fitr:
Morocco is known for its vibrant and energetic celebrations. One Eid Al-Fitr custom that is quite unique to this country is the tradition of buying new clothes for the entire family; it is considered a symbol of new beginnings.
On Eid day, Moroccans also start the day by offering prayer. This is followed by offering “Zakat al Fitr,” which is a donation made to those needful. This donation can also be made a day before. In Morocco, this charity is generally made in the form of groceries—usually a bag of flour per person in the family. So, for example, if a donor family has 5 members, they will give away 5 bags of flour in the way of Zakat Al Fitr.
Eid breakfast is perhaps what families look forward to the most! People start preparing sweet and salty snacks for the table days in advance. Some stapes of the table include Mhencha, Kaab Ghzal, Ghriba, and Feqas. Traditional mint tea is also always present alongside these delectable snacks.
Moroccan women wear the local djellaba on Eid, whilst the men wear Gandoura with local shoes, Belgha.
Egypt celebrates Eid al-Fitr with the utmost joy and passion.
Here is an interesting Eid Al-Fitr custom: on the eve of Eid, children go door-to-door, singing traditional songs and asking for sweets and money. This particular custom is known as “Eideya.” This is just a way of spreading joy in the community.
Another custom that is particular to Egypt is that there is a lot of stress on food! Compared to other countries, breakfast is more of a social event. Friends and families gather at dawn and mark the end of Ramadan by drinking a traditional apricot juice blended with dried fruits and buts. This drink is only drunk during this Eid fast-breaking.
On the day of Eid, people wear their best clothes and gather in public parks for picnics and family gatherings. Traditional dishes like “Fattah” and “Kahk” are prepared and shared with loved ones.
Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs in Southeast Asia
Eid is equally important to all Muslims in Southeast Asia. It is quite common for Muslims here to prepare new clothes and lots of sweets for the special day.
A common custom in Southeast Asia is exchanging money and gifts during Eid Al-Fitr, a practice known as “Eideya” or “Angpao.” Some countries only give money and gifts to children.
Here are how some Southeast Asian Countries celebrate:
Indonesia is considered to be the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. So, it’s no surprise that Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday there. Indonesia has some customs that are pretty unique to them.
First, the Mudik—which is when people travel to their villages or home towns to celebrate. Big cities often become less populated around Eid as people travel back to their villages to be with family. Indonesians also take time to prepare special Eid sweets like Opor Ayam and pay the Zakat Al Fitr.
The last day of Ramadan and the sighting of the moon is celebrated by the takbiran, or the banging of the bedug drums. The Eid prayer and more food follow!
Another custom that is unique to Indonesia is the Sungkeman; an act in which one asks for forgiveness from their family members, especially their parents. An extension of this is the Halal Bihalal, where you visit your extended family and friends to do the same—ask for forgiveness and new beginnings.
Malaysia is not to be discounted when it comes to Eid al-Fitr celebrations. People prepare for the occasion by wearing new and fresh clothes, often their best attire of the year. On the day of Eid, people gather at the mosque for prayers. Visiting relatives throughout the month are also customary here.
Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs in Africa
Similar Eid Al-Fitr celebrations take place in Africa; however, there are some differences too. Here are how some specific African countries celebrate Eid:
In Nigeria, Eid Al-Fitr is known as “Sallah.” Nigerians like to dress up in their finest clothes on the day of Eid to attend the special Eid prayer. In fact, around the time of Eid, many pop-up shops appear, specifically for Eid clothes.
Afterward, they visit friends and family to exchange greetings and gifts. One of the Eid Al-Fitr traditions is amazing foods which include “Suya,” which is spicy grilled meat. It’s a popular street food that’s enjoyed year-round, but particularly during festive occasions like Eid.
In Sudan, Eid Al-Fitr is a three-day holiday as well. The main customs are quite similar—wear your best clothes to the special Eid prayer, eat delicious food, and then visit all your loved ones.
One custom that is unique to them is that they use balloons to decorate the home during Eid. Sudanese dishes such as “foul” (mashed fava beans) and “Asida” (a type of porridge made from wheat flour) are prepared and offered to visit guests.
Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs in Europe and North America
In Europe and North America, the multicultural Muslim community celebrates Eid Al-Fitr with their multicultural Muslim communities by attending prayers and then staying back at the mosque to celebrate.
A particularly unique to Western Muslims is exchanging Eid greeting cards. Here are how some specific countries celebrate Eid:
Turkey is a Muslim-majority country, so Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration offered as a public holiday. Turkish people also visit their relatives and friends. Exchanging Eid gifts is quite common. You’ll see many traditional sweets like “Baklava” and “Lokum” adorning everyone’s table.
Another interesting tradition in Turkey is the practice of sprinkling cologne on each other to show affection and respect.
It is also customary in Turkey to visit cemeteries, usually on the second day of Eid, to pay their respects to their loved ones who have passed away.
2. United Kingdom
In the UK, Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. Muslims gather in mosques for morning prayers and then spend the day visiting family and friends. UK mosques also allow visitors to have an Eid meal with them—usually brought in by volunteers.
In homes, special food is prepared for the occasion, often with a lot of influence from South Asian culture—biryanis, kebabs, and the like are often a feature. Children often receive gifts or money from their elders, called “Eidi.”
In France, Eid Al-Fitr is also known as “La Fête de la rupture du jeûne.” Eid prayers are held in mosques, and families gather to enjoy traditional food such as couscous, tagines, and pastries.
Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs in Australia and New Zealand
Muslims in Australia and New Zealand celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with great joy as well. Although it is not a public or federal holiday, Muslims take some time off to gather at the mosques. This is actually the busiest time for Australian and Kiwi mosques. “Sheer Khurma” is the most popular Eid dish here, once again showcasing the strong South Asian culture of Eid cuisine.
Conclusion for Eid Al-Fitr Traditions and Customs around the World
Although some Eid Al Fit traditions and customs may be different worldwide, one can see how gratitude and togetherness are common themes among all. Learning about Muslim diversity helps one develop more respect and an appreciation for one another.
Clearly, Muslims all over the world love to put on their finest clothes and cook their best meals.
However, it is also a time to give back. It is a time to share your joy. It is a time to forgive old wrongs and start new beginnings. If Ramadan is a period of reflection and introspection, Eid Al-Fitr is the big exhale—a time to be joyous and celebrate.
May this Eid bring peace, love, and prosperity to all.