The Islamic religious festival of Eid, or Eid al-Fitr to give it its full name, is one of the most important dates on the Muslim calendar. Just like the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, the ways in which Eid is celebrated vary greatly from country to country. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Eid celebrations in Saudi Arabia are typically some of the most extravagant and sumptuous. Exact festivities will vary depending on the region, but they are united by the common theme of giving and generosity. After prayers, Eid is celebrated at home with a special meal, as well as the giving of gifts or money to the children in the family. It is also not uncommon for shops to give out generous free gifts to all their customers on the day, and many people will go out of their way to demonstrate their generosity by giving gifts of rice and other essentials to the poor and needy.
In the major cities of Saudi Arabia, such as the capital Riyadh, the festival is celebrated with lavish and impressive firework displays at night.
Eid al-Fitr is a public holiday in Turkey, and schools and offices are typically closed for the 3-day period of the festival. As is the case wherever Eid is celebrated, in Turkey prayer is a very important part of the celebrations, with men getting up early to attend their local mosques for the special bayram prayer.
In Turkey it is considered particularly important to show respect to elderly people during the festival by greeting them formally. Children will also get in on the action by going around their neighbourhood from door to door and collecting rewards of candy and other sweet treats in a manner which is not dissimilar to the Halloween tradition popular in the United States.
As in Turkey, Eid al-Fitr is a 3-day public holiday in Egypt. The day starts with a snack followed by prayers, the focus of which is the good deeds and generosity that the participants should be involved in during the festival and throughout the year. In Egypt, amusement parks are a particularly popular way for children to spend the celebrations, and they will often be given small sums of money by older family members to spend enjoying themselves.
In Egypt, important festivals such as Eid are celebrated very publicly, so you can expect to see crowded streets in Cairo during the 3-day period, throughout the day and the night.
In Indonesia, Eid al-Fitr is known as Hari Raya Idul Fitri (or is more popularly as Lebaran), and it is also a public holiday. It is traditional for people to go back to their home towns to celebrate with their parents and older relatives, which leads to huge numbers of people effectively migrating across the country. The emphasis during Lebaran is on forgiveness and healing, and the festival is seen as a time to seek atonement for past wrongdoings.
It is customary for Indonesian Muslims to don traditional formal clothing during Eid, the male outfit being called baju koko, and the female traditional dress kebaya kurung. People will often go to visit the graves of loved ones to pray as well as to clean and tidy the graves as a sign of respect.
The United States
There are approximately 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, and the way in which they celebrate Eid al-Fitr has a lot in common with some of the other countries we have looked at. Although the festival is not a public holiday in the US, many Muslims will take several days off work for the celebrations. Most people go to offer up the Eid prayer in Islamic centres, convention halls or other venues, including open parks. Afterwards people will generally visit each other’s homes for a celebratory meal, and will then attend amusement parks, ice rinks or other entertainment venues for a day of fun!