Eid Al Fitr around the world

After a long month of fasting during Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr presents a festive respite for Muslims everywhere. Also called the Festival of Breaking the Fast – fitr translates to breakfast. The exact date of the celebration depends on the Islamic calendar and varies according to when the new moon is sighted.

Eid Al Fitr entails prayers and other Islamic obligations such as zakat (charity) but that’s not all. Although essentially a religious holiday, the event is often an occasion for lively get-togethers and social gatherings with family, friends and neighbors. This year, however, the festival will take a new look as large congregations are discouraged in view of the global pandemic.

Eid Al Fitr is marked around the world with vibrant celebrations that are distinctive to each region. Let’s take a trip across continents – from South Asia to the Middle East and North Africa – as we take a look at some local traditions associated with the celebration.

Eidiyah

Eid Al Fitr is a celebration of abundance, as everyone sends food to friends and family. In the UAE and the Gulf, it is also a special time for children. Elders – whether parents or other older adults – give small amounts of money to young children as Eidiyah. The tradition is not restricted to members of the family and everyone can participate. Longtime residents of the UAE speak of how everyone they met gave them Eidiyah, often in beautifully decorated envelopes.

In recent years, it has become a way to instill a sense of responsibility around money, although some families prefer to give gifts such as gadgets or toys instead. If your family doesn’t live with you, or you cannot get together with them this year, think about wiring money to their bank accounts instead.

Chaand Raat

In India, Pakistan, and other parts of South Asia, the celebrations begin right after the last day of Ramadan. On Chaand Raat – literally, the night of the moon – women and girls head out to local marketplaces and community bazaars after the final iftar in order to prepare for the festivities of the following days. A palpable excitement fills the air; shops stay open until the early hours of the new day, as women shop for jewelry and colorful bangles, while stopping to get their hands and feet painted with intricate henna designs.

Here in the UAE, expats have traditionally headed to malls instead. With official guidelines recommending staying home this year, it’s easy enough to recreate an online shopping and henna party via one of the many different group-calling applications that are now available in the country. You can keep it as simple as you want, but a little planning – for example, by advising everyone to premix the henna and have it ready in time (and perhaps also sending over instructions in advance) – will ensure stress-free fun for everyone involved and give you a shared memory for years to come.

Sweets

In some parts of the Middle East and Africa, Eid Al Fitr is known as the Sugar Eid – as opposed to the savory nature of food at Eid Al Adha (where beef or mutton dishes are the highlight). Each country has its own Eid sweets. In Egypt, the day may begin with kahk or butter cookies dusted with powdered sugar or filled with honey. In neighboring Sudan, it is common to prepare and serve bettifour, a range of baked items such as biscuits, macarons, and meringues (the name comes from the French petits fours). The Somalis make a spiced confection of corn flour and sugar called xalwad or halwo, while the Moroccans go one step further by incorporating fruit into their tagines for a definitive sweet note.

A good way to celebrate this year is simply to try your hand at recreating these at home. More of us are cooking more these days; so why not put those new skills to good use?

Keith J Fernandez is an editor and communications professional who advises on marketing content strategy. He is based between the UAE, the Netherlands and India and writes about business, technology and personal finance.

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article except information on Citibank N.A. – UAE products referenced herein.

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