Tonight, billions of Muslims worldwide will celebrate the end of a month of fasting and prayer with Eid al-Fitr. Literally translating to “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast,” Eid al-Fitr begins this evening and runs for two to three days. The Eid, or festival, celebrates the end of fasting holy month of Ramadan.
The Muslim population in the United States is growing at a rapid pace. Currently, Islam is the third largest religion in the United States, behind only Christianity and Judaism with 3.45 million adherents. By 2040, Islam is expected to become the nation’s second largest religion. Today, we’ll join millions of fellow Americans in celebrating a rich and ancient heritage, and of course, breaking the fast!
What is Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr?
Eid al-Fitr is the official end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It is Islam’s most sacred month, commemorating the Quran’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. Since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is solar based, Ramadan begins the morning after the sighting of a new moon, signifying the start of a new month.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast (sawm) from dawn to sundown, abstaining from food, drink, smoking, or sex. They are also encouraged to avoid sinful behavior like cursing, lying, or fighting (except in self-defense). Ramadan is also marked with prayers and acts of good deeds and charity, especially for the less fortunate. It is also a time of increased pilgrimage to Mecca, the Muslim holy city. This is known as Umrah, translated roughly to “a visit.” Umrah can occur at any time during the year except during certain days of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, Dhu’l-Hijjah, when believers take the Hajj.
Often celebrated with prayers and breaking of the fast, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important holidays, topped only by Eid al-Adha.
Traditionally, Eid al-Fitr begins with the first sighting of the new moon. Sometimes, this mean that the date of Eid can differ depending on where you are. To help standardize the date, many celebrate Eid when the new moon is spotted over Mecca. This is not an official decree, though. Many wait until the new moon is spotted in their area before celebrating Eid al-Fitr.
The first Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad and his friends, family, and followers after the battle of Badr. Often celebrated with prayers and breaking of the fast, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important holidays, topped only by Eid al-Adha. It’s a day of celebration and thanksgiving. Believers will cleanse their bodies and wear their finest or new clothes. Eid gifts, or Eidi, are given, especially to children.
Eid al-Fitr is an opportunity to expand your understanding of the world and share something special with a friend or loved one!
For those of you with Muslim friends, Eid al-Fitr is the perfect time to learn more about your loved one’s heritage. Join them from prayers or celebrations. Discuss Islam or how they celebrate with them. Islam is a global religion, so there’s a lot you can learn! You can also greet them with “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Have a blessed Eid.” It’s an opportunity to expand your understanding of the world and share something special with a friend or loved one!
The Food of Eid al-Fitr
Of course, now that fast is over, it’s time to eat, drink, and be merry. For many, the celebrations for Eid al-Fitr differ greatly, not only from region to region, but family to family. In Yemen, you gather at the home of the head of the family and savor a plate of Bint Al Sahn. Sudanese Muslims spend the day with neighbors eating Aseeda. Egyptians start the day with a date and glass of milk before indulging in a cookie called a Kahk. In Sri Lanka, they’ll celebrate Eid with Wattalaapam, while Afghanis enjoy stuffed flatbreads called Bolani.
A date is a sweet fruit that’s a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, making them extremely popular during Ramadan and Eid.
There’s no one recipe to represent the Eid, but one treat that is nearly universal during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr is the date. A date is a sweet fruit native to the Middle East and a staple of the regional cuisine. This means they are extremely popular during Ramadan and Eid.
To reflect this, we’ve found two excellent date-centric recipes for you to try. First, if you’re in the mood for a savory dish, NYT Cooking offers a scrumptious North African Roast Chicken with Couscous, Dates, and Buttered Almonds recipe. The second recipe takes full advantage of the sweetness of the date, with a stuffed date parcel recipe for dessert, courtesy of BBC Food! We’ll publish the ingredient list below, but head over to the individual sites for the full directions.
A special thanks to Amna Afzahul-Alam for her help in researching and proofing this article!
NYT Cooking’s Roast Chicken with Couscous, Dates, and Buttered Almonds Recipe
- 4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp of ground ginger
- ½ tsp of black pepper
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- 1 large, whole chicken, roughly 4 lbs
- 2 cups of couscous (not instant)
- 3 tbsp of butter
- ½ cup of sliced almonds
- ½ cup of slivered dates
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp of honey
- Chopped mint, parsley, cilantro, or a combination, for garnish
- 2 tbsp of orange blossom water (optional)
Head over to NYT Cooking’s Roast Chicken with Couscous, Dates, and Buttered Almonds for full directions.
BBC Food’s Date Parcels Stuffed with Frangipane and Pomegranate Recipe
- 16 large medjool dates, stoned and halved
- ½ oz of soya margarine
- 6 sheets of vegan filo pastry, halved
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 1 tbsp of rosewater
- 1 ½ oz of caster sugar
- 6 tbsp of water
- 2 ½ oz of ground almonds
- 1 oz of fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1 ¾ oz of shelled pistachios and fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Head over to BBC Food’s Date parcels stuffed with frangipane and pomegranate for full directions.