Festivals IloveIndia
Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety by Muslims all over the world. Know about its history, rituals, celebrations and dates.

Eid ul-Fitr or the "festival of breaking of the fast" is one of the biggest festivals of the Muslims. The occasion, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety by Muslims all over the world. The entire month of Ramadan entails 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting by the devout Muslims and the day of the Eid, which falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal, is the only day of the month during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The day is a highly auspicious day for the Muslims, who after their month-long fast pay the Zakat (a form of alms-giving treated as a religious obligation) before offering the Eid prayers. The festival is an intensely spiritual experience for those who observe the fast during Ramadan. There is a particular Salat (Islamic prayer) associated with Eid ul-Fitr which consists of two Rakats (units) and is generally offered in an open field or large hall by a huge congregation (Jama'at) of Muslims. There are also several other rituals that are to be strictly followed while offering the prayers during Eid. The rituals and customs may vary according to the different schools of Sunni Islam.

When Is Eid ul-Fitr Celebrated
Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated on the 1st day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar (the first day after Ramadan). The Islamic calendar, however, is very different from the Gregorian calendar and thus the day of Eid ul-Fitr falls on different dates each year. In the Islamic calendar, each month has either 29 or 30 days, but usually in no discernible order. Traditionally, the first day of each month is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the hilal (crescent moon) shortly after sunset. Due to this factor, the day on which Eid ul-Fitr begins is determined by a confirmed sighting of the new moon after which the month of Ramadan comes to an end. The timing for the Eid ul-Fitr prayers known as Salat al-Eid begins when the sun reaches approximately two meters above the horizon until it reaches its meridian before Dhuhr. Every year, there is considerable excitement over the sighting of the moon all over the world on the day of Eid.

The festival of Eid ul-Fitr was originated by prophet Muhammad. According to certain legends, the festival was introduced in Medina after the migration of Muhammad from Mecca. The prophet told the people that the Almighty has fixed two days of festivities for the Muslims: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. Both these festivals are regarded as occasions for the people to show their gratitude to Allah and include acts of charity like giving alms to the poor and the underprivileged.

Rituals & Celebrations
Eid ul-Fitr is a major Islamic festival and its celebration may span for up to three days. On the day of Eid, the practicing Muslims get up early in the morning-before sunrise-and offer Salatul Fajr (the pre-sunrise prayer). After that they perform their morning ablutions and wear new clothes in preparation for the festival. Eid marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and it is forbidden to fast on this day. The Muslims began their day with a light breakfast, comprising something sweet like fruit, and proceed to attend a special Eid prayer (known as salaat). Since the festival is a time for showing gratitude to the Almighty and sharing goodwill with others, acts of charity are obligatory on this day. Each Muslim is expected to donate a specific quantity of food items to the poor and needy in keeping with the tradition of Sadaqat-ul-fitr.

The Eid prayer is traditionally performed in a congregation in open areas like fields or community centers. This open-air space for the community prayer is known as Eidgah. For the special Eid prayer, no call to prayer is given. The prayer consists of two Rakats with an additional six incantations. After the prayer, a sermon takes place which is followed by a supplication asking for Allah's forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world. Over the course of the sermon the Muslims are instructed to perform the rituals of Eid, such as the zakat.

Once the prayer is completed, the time for merriment and enjoyment begins. The Muslims, dressed in their fineries, visit friends and relatives. While some people may choose to celebrate at home, others might organize large communal celebrations at halls or community centers. Eid is also a time of forgiveness, self-reflection and giving to charity; sharing of meals with the needy is a major tradition associated with the festival. It is believed that the Muslims are spiritually cleansed and rejuvenated after a month of fasting during Ramadan and doing good deeds on the occasion of Eid helps in building a stronger bond between the Muslim and the Almighty. Exchanging Eid gifts-known as Eidi-among friends and relatives is also a popular ritual.