What Is Eid And Why Do Muslims Celebrate It?

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world – so it's a pretty big festival.
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This weekend, Muslims everywhere will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr.

It’s a very significant occasion in the calendar of Islam, meant to mark the end of a month of fasting – known as Ramadan – where Muslims can unite with friends and family to celebrate.

And as Islam is the second largest religion in the world, it’s quite a big deal. It’s also only the first of two Eid events in the Islamic calendar, both of which can be informally known as ‘Eid’ (which does make it a little confusing).

Here’s everything you need to know about the occasion and why it’s a pivotal time of year for the Muslim community.

Why do Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr translates as ‘Festival of the breaking of the fast’ and this year occurs between 20-22 April.

The exact dates of the festival change every year because it’s based on the lunar calendar, which is approximately 11 days shorter than the more commonly-used solar calendar.

But it is always celebrated at the end of Ramadan, the month during which most adult Muslims fast during daylight hours as a sign of their dedication to Allah. Ramadan is the holiest month of the year, as it marks when Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

So Eid is a chance for Muslims to celebrate the end of the fast and thank Allah for offering strength during Ramadan.

It only begins only when the new crescent moon is spotted in the sky – that officially marks the end of Ramadan and the start of Shawwal (the tenth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar).

How is Eid celebrated?

Think food, friends and family.

The day might begin with a small breakfast and a donation to charity before heading to congregation at the local mosque.

Those who celebrate might also use the phrase Eid Mubarak, meaning Blessed Eid, or Eid sa’id, meaning Happy Eid, to greet each other.

The Day of Eid, is the first day of the celebrations and stretches from the evening of April 20 to the evening of April 21 this year.

But, the exact timing of Eid celebrations might vary slightly from country to country. Some start the festival based on the moon’s cycle in their local area, while others might follow the nearest Muslim country.

What is Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha is actually the larger Eid celebration, and always happens a little over two months after Eid al-Fitr.

It means “feast of the sacrifice” in recognition of the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim sacrificing his son Ismail in Allah’s name.

The four-day celebration means Muslims exchange sweets and gifts, and animals ritually sacrificed.

The festival also happens at the end of the Haji, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, although as Muslim Aid explains, the two have no direct relation.

Muslim Aid says: “The day that [Eid al-Adha] celebrations fall on is dependent on a legitimate sighting of the moon, following the completion of the annual Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj.”