Everything you need to know about Eid al-Fitr 2021 celebrations

This year's celebrations marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan will be muted for some as vaccines are still out of reach for many.

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Everything you need to know about Eid al Fitr 2021 celebrations www.africanpolicy

For the second year running, Muslims marked the end of the holy month of Ramdan under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year’s celebrations, prayers, and engagements are likely to be muted. Celebration to celebrate the end of the month of fasting for many will be on May 13 or 14.

Even so, Muslims worldwide will take the opportunity to fashion a moment of prayer, reflection, and remembering those that can’t celebrate in the same way.

What is Eid al Fitr?

Eid al Fitr, which translates as ‘festival of breaking the fast, marks the end of the fasting month, which lasts between 29 or 30 days. Muslims typically use the occasion to reaffirm family and community bonds.

Eid is announced at the beginning of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar called Shawwal, which follows the month of Ramadan. The sighting of the moon is therefore important in announcing the start of a new lunar month.

When is Eid 2021?

This year, Eid will be marked on 12 or 13 May, depending on the sighting of the new moon. The date of Eid changes every year, as the Islamic lunar calendar is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar calendar.

Eid also signals the first day of Shawwal, a new month in the Islamic calendar.

Officials and enthusiasts in Muslim majority countries spend the last nights of Ramadan observing the evening sky in an attempt to sight the new moon and announce the beginning of Eid.

Some countries may celebrate Eid on different days depending on the sighting of the new moon in their country.

Why will Eid be different for some this year?

In places like India, the global epicentre of Covid-19, which also has one of the largest Muslim populations at 204 million, families will be praying that their loved ones remain safe from a disease that has been taking both young and old through a new deadly variant.

For Palestinians, Eid al Fitr has been celebrated under Israeli occupation for decades, but parents will try to give their children at least one jubilant day. This year will be more difficult than most as Israeli jets are bombing Gaza, killing tens of people and wounding hundreds.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have been gripped by weeks of protests against the occupation and the ensuing violent Israeli retaliation will likely result in sombre, but defiant, celebrations.

Everything you need to know about Eid al Fitr 2021 celebrations www.africanpolicy

Why is Eid important?

Eid follows Ramadan, which marks the month in which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed, who Muslims consider the final Prophet and who they honour by adding the term ‘peace be upon him.

There are two Eids in Islam. Eid al Fitr also referred to like the smaller Eid, and Eid al Adha or ‘Festival of the Sacrifice’.

Muslims celebrate Eid to show thankfulness to Allah for allowing them to finish and be able to fulfil their obligation by fasting, completing good deeds in the month that Muslims consider as being better than 1,000 months.

Another important aspect of Eid is the Zakat al Fitr which means “charity of breaking the fast.”

This amount, often small and relative to the income level of a locality, is paid at the end Ramadan or during Eid so that it may go to those less financially able to celebrate Eid.

Eid is also an opportunity for Muslims to show thankfulness to God in the hope of having past sins forgiven and a chance to wipe the slate clean.

Is Eid a public holiday?

Eid is a three-day public holiday in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as places beyond the Middle East, like Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Malawi, among others.

Most shops, businesses, and organisations may be closed or have altered opening times during the celebration to allow families to celebrate with their loved ones.

Theme parks and other attractions are typically busy, however, this year, with a range of restrictions in place to curb the spread of coronavirus, many theme parks, and attractions are likely to remain closed.

Despite efforts to make the day so, Eid is not a public holiday in the UK and the US. However, in some areas where there is a high population of Muslims, some businesses may choose to close or open later in the day.

Some Muslims may request to take the day off in order to spend it with their close friends and family.

What are some Eid traditions?

Every country and every family celebrates Eid differently, but there are some key festivities that are common.

Eid is meant to be a time of celebration and spending quality time with family and friends. Typically, Muslims will wear new clothes, either traditional dress or the best clothes that they own.

Homes are decorated elaborately and intricately to welcome the occasion.

People will visit others and spend time with family and friends throughout the day, often exchanging gifts. However this year, many countries have enforced curfews to avoid the spread of the virus.

This year, celebrations are likely to be muted and spent at home, with a lot of places closed or with reduced opening hours.

One key tradition is for adults to give younger members of the family an “eddeya” or sum of money as a present. Children will excitedly tear open envelopes to spend their money on their Eid festivities.

It is also traditional to visit the sick, give to charity and pay respects to those who died and collect presents for those who have lost loved ones, especially orphans.

With hospital visits restricted, and fears over the spread of the virus, many Muslims will not be able to take part in some of these traditions. Instead, most people will have to resort to celebrating Eid virtually, by calling their friends and family members.

What do people eat at Eid?

After a month of fasting every day, it’s no surprise that Eid largely centres around food. The most decadent and lavish spreads are typically on offer.

One quintessential treat is kahk, a sugar cookie with a shortbread-like texture that can have many different fillings, such as date paste, mixed nuts, agameya (ghee, honey, sesame seeds), and Turkish delight, dusted with icing sugar. It can also be left plain with no filling.

Baking kahk is a key social activity in the Middle East, as families gather the night before Eid to cook and decorate while bakeries are inundated with orders. In Egypt, kahk is so beloved that people have renamed the festival Eid al-kahk, meaning “celebration of kahk”.

another favourite is qatayef, a fluffy golden brown pancake stuffed with sweet cream and nuts and doused in syrup.

Finally, there is kunafa, the hallmark dessert of the Middle East, which is eaten copiously. That more adventurous experiment with this sweet and syrupy dessert, adding different toppings including fruit and nuts to chocolate and cream.

Usually, families will spend Eid visiting other relatives and friends and taking gifts and food over  However, with Covid-19 restrictions still in place, many people will spend Eid alone or with immediate family.

How do you wish someone a ‘Happy Eid’?

Regardless of the social distancing measures enforced, people will still be looking to mark the occasion. They can do this over the phone or messaging apps.

Each country has its own variation of Eid greetings, but the most common is ‘Eid Mubarak‘ or ‘Eid Saeed‘, which mean ‘Have a blessed Eid’ and ‘Happy Eid’ in Arabic, respectively.

In Turkey, people will commonly say ‘bayraminiz Kutlu olsun‘, which means ‘may your Bayram (Eid) be blessed’. To which the response is ‘Allah Razi olsun‘ or ‘may God bless you.

Why are there two Eids? What’s the difference?

Eid al-Fitr, as explained above, comes at the end of Ramadan and celebrates the breaking of the fast.

Eid al-Adha, which means “festival of the sacrifice” is approximately two months after Eid al-Fitr and is culturally considered a bigger event. It coincides with the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, known as Hajj, which every Muslim is expected to undergo at least once during their lifetime if they are physically and financially able.

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