Eid al-Fitr: What you need to know

More than one billion Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, as the month-long Ramadan fast ends and the festivities begin.

This year’s Eid comes amid ongoing crises in the Middle East — the civil war in Syria, the diplomatic crisis surrounding Qatar — but the celebrations mark a time when communities within the Muslim world come together.

What is Eid al-Fitr?

One of the most important days for Muslims, this is the “festival of breaking the fast.”

Families and friends gather to mark the end of Ramadan and show gratitude to Allah. Eid al-Fitr doesn’t have any historical links; instead, the celebrations focus on the community and family, and a spirit of generosity is encouraged.

Ramadan is a month-long fast, which marks the month Muslims believe their Holy Book, the Quran, was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

During this time, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam, requiring prayer five times a day and generally encouraging a more reflective behavior.

When is Eid al-Fitr?

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court announced this year’s Eid al-Fitr would begin on Sunday, June 25, according to state-run Saudi News Agency. Most of the Muslim world kicked off celebrations that day, but because the holiday is set by Islam’s lunar calendar and depends on the sighting of the new moon, some countries celebrate it a day later.

Ramadan and Eid do not fall on the same date each year for the same reason. Time-zones also impact when Eid begins.

Once Eid starts, the celebrations can last for up to three days in most countries.

How to celebrate Eid?

During the day, Muslims gather in large open spaces or mosques for special prayers, called Salat al-Eid, usually followed by a small breakfast, their first daytime meal in a month.

Gifts are usually exchanged, and alms-giving is also a common practice. Another custom involves donning new clothes for the new day, which marks a spiritual renewal.

Food is an important part of Eid al-Fitr, as feasting takes the place of fasting. After a month of the latter, delicacies and heavy foods will reign at the lavish dinners being prepared.