World-wide Celebrations End Ramadan with a Feast: Eid-al-Fitr
From Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar, Muslims end their 29 or 30 days of fasting with a celebration called Eid-al-Fitr. This feast comes at the end of Ramadan and in many places begins a three-day holiday.
In Jakarta, businesses and shops are closed and the usually gridlocked streets are nearly empty as about half the capital’s 12 million people leave the city for their hometowns.
The word Eid means recurring happiness or festivity in Arabic and Al-Fitr literally means the breaking the fast, hence Eid-al-Fitr. Muslims celebrate the end of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sex during daylight hours. Eid-al-Fitr also ushers in the beginning of Shawwal or the tenth month in the Muslim calendar.
Muslims are encouraged to dress in their best clothes (new if possible) and to attend a special Eid-al-Fitr prayer that is performed in congregation at mosques or open areas like fields, squares etc. When Muslims finish their fast at the last day (29th or 30th Ramadan), they recite Takbir.
There is a fair bit of disagreement on the day Eid-al-Fitr is celebrated due to moon sighting difficulties and interpretation. Confusion can come for individuals living in the western world, who, for example, may need to request vacation days in advance.
Many Christians have taken the opportunity to greet Muslims in friendship. Instead of focusing on differences, they have been telling their Muslim neighbors how they too as Christians fast and pray because they are “people of the book”. In some cases, this time of celebration among Muslims is used as an opportunity to witness to them. One young person said, “Muslims are so open right now and in a good mood, I can explain my faith to them without stirring tempers.” But the focus needs to be on building relationships. From these relationships God can open doors to speaking about the Good News.
Although Ramadan is over, the necessity for prayer and action towards Muslim’s continues.
Pray for Muslims that you know personally during this Eid-al-Fitr holiday. If Muslims invite you to participate in the festivities it is actually a great honour and usually a sure sign of their esteem, respect and friendship. Pray for wisdom and for the door to open so that relationships can be built. While it is easy to get into discussions about political and cultural issues, being a good neighbour is what you are called to be.
Here is a recipe for Vermicelli Payasam, which is the name for a dessert often served at Eid ul-Fitr in India. Perhaps you can make a dessert for your Muslim neighbours.
- 250 gms vermicelli (very thin pasta), broken into smaller pieces
- 1 Cup of sugar
- 6 Cups of milk
- 2 Tablespoons broken cashews
- 2 Tablespoons of raisins
- ¼ Teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ Teaspoon of vanilla
- 5 Tablespoons of ghee or melted butter
Heat 3 tablespoons of ghee or butter in a frying pan to melt. Add the vermicelli and fry until golden. Add the milk and heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Stir well and cook until the vermicelli is soft, but do not allow to boil. Heat remaining ghee or butter in another pan and fry the cashew nuts for 1 minute until golden. Add the raisins and sprinkle onto the payasam. Serve warm in small bowls.