Each winter, usually sometime in November, about two billion Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, the three-day festival commonly known as "Eid".Eid is commemorated by many different cultural rituals, colors, and festivities in countries across the globe. Each region has specific customs, foods, and traditions associated with this celebration.
The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and is a culmination of the month-long struggle towards a higher spiritual state. Ramadan holds special significance for Muslims, since the Quran, the book of Muslim scripture, was revealed during this month. It is also the time when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day, refraining not only from food and water but also from both material as well as spiritual vices, such as lying, cheating, violence, or theft. The fasting is not only a symbol of sacrifice and purification, but also a measure of self-restraint and a tool for encouraging compassion for the hungry, the poor, and the less fortunate. Charity and service are especially emphasized during Ramadan, and Muslims are required to donate food and a percentage of their savings to the under-served and neglected in society.
During the month of fasting, there is an increased sense of community, sacrifice and devotion to God. In addition to the five daily prayers, there are nightly family gatherings for the iftari or breaking of the fast. And praying together for forgiveness and good-will is a daily event. Muslims generally break their fast with dates, the traditional fruit of the Arabian peninsula. Along with the dates, special snacks like fried vegetables and spicy lentils are also eaten for iftari. Drinks such as freshly squeezed lemonade mixed with rose-water are also commonly prepared during Ramadan.
As the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, Eid begins with the sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadan. Each year, the holiday moves back about ten days in accordance with the movement of the lunar cycle. In many countries, festivities begin on the night before Eid, known as the chand raat or the night of the moon. Girls decorate their palms with henna or mehndi, and dance to traditional music, while cooking for the grand feast the next day gets underway.
On Eid morning, families offer a special prayer of thanks to God and then begin the celebrations with food and merriment. In most parts of the world, people give each other gifts and new clothes, children receive money from their elders, special feasts are held for relatives, and desserts adorn the dinner table for days while families and friends reunite in celebration.
Traditional foods associated with Ramadan and Eid are: