Eid al-Fitr a.k.a. Aidilfitri: Its Significance and Practices
Eid al-Fitr, also known in Malaysia as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, is one of two major celebrations in Islam, the other being Eid al-Adha, or Hari Raya Aidiladha. Let’s have a look at the beginnings and significance of this Islamic celebration.
History of Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Ramadan fasting month, a period of 29–30 days of fasting, from the first sighting of the crescent moon to the next. During Ramadan, it is obligatory for able-bodied adult Muslims who are not pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating to observe a strict fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from all food and drinks. According to Islam, this is for the purpose of achieving taqwa, the awareness of and fear of God, as well as being a time of reflection on one’s life and actions. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which translates to “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. On this day, Muslims are not permitted to fast as it is a day of celebration.
During Eid al-Fitr, Muslim communities would prepare a huge feast to be enjoyed together with friends and family. Different countries around the world have slight variations in how it is celebrated. Practices common to most countries include a large meal with relatives and neighbours, asking for forgiveness from one another, and also donations to the poor and needy prior to prayers. Many countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece include giving small gifts of money to children as well.
In Turkey, Eid al-Fitr is known as both Şeker Bayramı and Ramazan Bayramı, or “Holiday of Sweets” and “Holiday of Ramadan” respectively. It’s easy to guess why it’s called Ramazan Bayramı; as for Şeker Bayramı, this is because children would go around the neighbourhood, wish everyone “Happy Bayram,” and receive traditional sweets and chocolates or even a small amount of money at each house they visit. Additionally, the people would organise visits to cemeteries to pay their respects to the deceased.
Tunisians celebrate Eid al-Fitr by giving friends and relatives special biscuits such as baklava and ka’ak.
Similar to Turkey, Pakistan also knows Eid al-Fitr by two names: Meethi Eid and Choti Eid, which translate to “Sweet Eid” and “Small Eid” respectively. The sweets during their celebration are present at a special Eid breakfast which contain various desserts and sweets.
In the Philippines, Eid al-Fitr is known by many names: Hariraya Buka Puasa (or just Hariraya Buka, or simply Hariraya or Buka), Wakas ng Ramadan, Araw ng Raya, and Pagtatapos ng Pag-aayuno, which translate to “Holiday of Breaking the Fast,” “End of Ramadan,” “Feast Day,” and “End of Fasting” respectively. In addition to the usual celebrations, various activities like dancing and boat racing are also carried out in celebration in places with a significant Muslim population.
Two Celebrations of Eid al-Fitr in a Year?
Because Eid al-Fitr is based on the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar, it is not synchronised with the Gregorian calendar which is used in most of the world. Thus, every year, Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated 11 days earlier than the previous year as the Islamic calendar only counts 354 and 355 days. This led to one time in the year 2000 when Eid al-Fitr was celebrated on 8 January 2000 as well as 28 December 2000. The next time this is expected to occur would be in the year 2033, which will see Eid al-Fitr being celebrated on 2 January 2033, followed by the next celebration on 23 December 2033.
As we celebrate Aidilfitri this year, it will be a bit different from before due to the global pandemic. The government is allowing Hari Raya celebrations, but it’s strictly limited to only the first day, as well as only up to 20 people per house, with social distancing rules in place, and no interstate travel allowed. In the meantime, be inspired by these caring companies helping out during the MCO, and see if you can help out others during this time of Ramadhan.
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