12 August 2012

Egypt: Eid Al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr follows the sighting of the new moon which signifies the end of the fast in the month of Ramadan. On the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast) is celebrated before Eid al-Ad'ha. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Eid is celebrated with enthusiasm every where in the world. Muslims all over the world buy new clothes for Eid and exchange gifts.

Traditionally they visit the mosques not only to attend to the Eid prayer but also to hand out gifts and donations to the unprivileged kids and the needy. Eid prayer is performed by the whole community in an outdoor prayer ground that is known as the musalla. In large cities, the Eid prayer is also performed in congregations in mosques. Greetings of "Eid-Mubarak" or "a blessed Eid" are exchanged. A very important aspect of Eid is the charity which all the Muslims are expected to give to the needy.

Few festivals in the Muslim world are anticipated with greater delight than Eid el-Fitr. It is this festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the annual assertion of 'the spirit over the flesh'.

Customs and traditions

There is a wide range of customs and traditions that mark the Eid el-Fitr celebrations in various countries in North Africa, the Middle and Far East and even in the Pacific, but in general it is looked upon as a day for the family, rather than a public celebration. The day always starts with special Eid prayers at the main mosque (also attended by the women in some countries), followed later on in the day by a large celebratory lunch at the house of the eldest member of the family. Children receive gifts of cash and new clothes.

Preparation for the festival often starts the day before and the entire celebration could last up to five days. Children dress smartly and call their friends' and neighbours' homes in the evening and sweets are given out. On Eid el-Fitr itself, a typical family lunch will consist of Fata (rice, bread and meat topped with tomato sauce), stuffed sweet pastries, sambouseh (pastries stuffed with meat or cheese), and other meat dishes; as well the famous Egyptian cookies that are baked specially for Eid El-Fitr and served for breakfast.

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