Celebrating Eid al-Fitr on Different Continents

–       This article is written based on the interview with an 18-year-old Bengali immigrant living in NYC. Due to the privacy concern, she is going to be referred to as “Z.”

About the Interviewee:

Z came to the United States when she was six. She was born and raised as a Muslim in Bengali culture. When she reached the age of 14, Z felt that her parents’ demand for her living up to Bengali and Islamic cultures and values, even in American society, was somewhat “burdensome” to her. Z decided to confirm her faith in Islam when she is confident enough to acknowledge that “Z is making the choice,” rather than her parents or her original culture. Even though she firmly identities herself as American and does not participate in daily prayers, Z still cherishes the philosophies and teachings of Islam with “pride and respect.”

1) Eid al-Fitr in the United States

2008 U.S. Stamp

As Z explained to me, young Muslim population in America is becoming “Eid Muslims,” who only attend Mosques for major holidays like Eid. On the contrary, the older generation tends to follow their original customs and practices more strictly. A large number of Muslims attend mosques, Islamic centers, open parks, or convention halls to pray instead of going to work or school in America.  Some school districts in Metropolitan areas, like Los Angeles and New York City, recognize Eid as a holiday and grant excuses to Muslim students for being absent from school that day. 1

Eid in America, particularly in New York City, brings together Muslims from diverse cultural backgrounds and unite them together in the open, supportive atmosphere. This is also the time when Muslim Americans can remind themselves of their religious faith and cultural identities as both Muslim and American. Prayers and feasts easily bind Muslims from different origins and cultures. Some mosques or cultural centers have extended prayer hours for immigrants in large cities.

Muslim immigrants also make visits to their close friends and relatives. They also make donations to charities and non-for-profit organizations in America. Z says many Muslim immigrants also send money to poor relatives, mosques or charity organizations in their home country. 2

2) Eid al-Fitr in South Asia [Bangladesh]

According to Z, Eid al-Fitr means much more than just a celebration of concluding Ramadan to Bengali people. Besides its religious aspects, Eid is more like an open house event for everyone in the Muslim community to interact with one another by reminding Allah’s grace in each other’s life. Therefore, “sharing and caring” is the principal aspect of Eid as what Islam as religion emphasizes.

"An Indian Muslim girl in Jammu, India, displays her hands after applying henna on Sept. 9, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan."

For South Asians, there is too much to celebrate, but always not enough time. Therefore, the celebration starts even a day before the actual Eid in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Chand Raat, which means “night of the moon,” is a grand preparation day when South Asians enjoy their last minute shopping for Eid at marketplace, department stores and shopping malls. Girls wear colorful bangles and draw mehndi, also known as Henna, on their hands.

” In Indonesia, which has the world’s largest population of Muslims, Eid is known as Hari Raya Idul Fitri – the Great Day of Celebration.department stores and shopping malls. Girls wear colorful bangles and draw mehndi, also known as Henna, on their hands.”

According to Z, dressing up in new clothes and accessories for Eid is “a big thing” to Bengali people. Eid is the only time when “extravagance” is allowed for celebration. Everyone dresses up in his or her best clothes to show respect to the ritual. Z remembers that some of her less well-off relatives used to borrow her shoes and clothes to dress up their children for Eid.

Eid al-Fitr lasts from sunrise to sunset. Many Bengali people, especially the younger generation and children, try to wake up as early as possible. The reason is the exciting prize: becoming the “early-bird” receivers for Eidi, a small amount of money given by elders from each household in the neighborhood to children. Even adults participate in this race for self-satisfaction and bragging. However, elderly relatives occasionally give new clothes or small gifts to children instead of Eidi. 3

In order to receive Eidi, the children have to touch the adults’ feet as a sign of respect. In response, the adults gently pat on the children’s head or embrace them and say popular Islamic greetings, “Eid Mubarak.” In Arabic, “Eid” and “Mubarak” means “Festivity” and “Blessed” respectively. 4

Parents also visit other houses in their neighborhood and say greetings with a formal embrace. However, there is one official rule for this celebration: a visitor must eat or at least drink a sip of water from each house that he or she is visiting. The most popular Eid food in Bangladesh is traditional sugar coconut noodle called chootki. Many housewives prepare an enormous amount of food for their neighbors’ visits. The visitor’s refusal to eat is considered to be exceptionally disgraceful and disrespectful to the family.

3) Eid al-Fitr in the Middle East

“In Turkey, national holidays are known as bayramn.” Eid is one of the official and the most celebrated holidays; all government offices and schools close down for the whole three-day long feast. Eid is also called as either Bayramı or Ramadan Bayramı, which means “Bayram of Sweets” and “Ramadan Bayram” respectively.

"Tens of thousands of Muslims gather to pray at the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca's Grand Mosque to mark the end of Ramadan and the start of the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr."

Afghanistan, a Sunni dominant country, also celebrates Eid on a relatively larger scale than other Muslim nations in the same region. Eid is referred to as Eid e Ramadan in Afghanistan and other Persian speaking nations, while the pashto speaking communities call it “Kochnai Akhtar.” Almost every practice is similar to that of South Asia. 5

4) Eid al-Fitr in Africa

About 51.6% of African population is Muslim. 6

Almost 98 percent of the entire population in Tunisia is Muslim. Eid is also known as Eid ul-Fitrin in Tunisia. Tunisian Muslims celebrate the entire three – or even four- days of Eid as official holidays. Many Tunisians spend days and nights for the Eid preparation even before it officially starts. Tunisians share traditional biscuits called “Baklawa” with different sorts of cakes called “Kaak” with their friends, relatives, and neighbors starting on the first day of Eid. Men have to attend Morning Prayer in the mosque, while women busy themselves to follow their husbands or go shopping for their children. Usually, children get new clothes and toys for Eid. Every part of the nation is in its celebrating mood with dance and music during the daytime. At noon, sons and daughters visit their parents’ houses for a large family gathering and have a huge lunch together. The real highlight of Tunisian Eid is an evening luncheon with families.

"Nigerian girls dressed up for Eid"

Compared to Tunisia, Nigeria is more of “a secular environment” among neighboring Muslim countries. About 70 percent of the entire population believes in Islam. One unique thing about Eid in Nigeria is that Christians also actively participate in celebration with Muslims. Eid is also known to as “Small Salah,” and Nigerians bless each other with greetings (“Barka Da Sallah,” which means greetings on Sallah in the Hausa language). They also enjoy their meals with their neighbors at home. Eid in Nigeria lasts about two days: many Nigerians travel to their hometown to meet relatives when it overlaps with a weekend. 7


→ Introduction to Eid al-Fitr

→ Islam and Eid al-Fitr

→Eid al-Fitr as a National Holiday?

→An Interview with Muslim American


  1. Hasan, Asma Gull. American Muslims: the New Generation. New York: Continuum, 2000. 140. Print.
  2. Khan, Khola. “Eid-ul Fitr ( Muslims Islamic Festival ).” Daily Pakistan | JinnahSeQuaid. 17 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.jinnahsequaid.com/7452/eid-ul-fitr-muslims-islamic-festival/>.
  3. Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. Islamic Society in Practice. Gainesville, Fla. [u.a.: Univ. Pr. of Florida, 1995. Print.
  4. Khan, Khola. “Eid-ul Fitr ( Muslims Islamic Festival ).” Daily Pakistan | JinnahSeQuaid. 17 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.jinnahsequaid.com/7452/eid-ul-fitr-muslims-islamic-festival/>.
  5. Khan, Khola. “Eid-ul Fitr ( Muslims Islamic Festival ).” Daily Pakistan | JinnahSeQuaid. 17 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.jinnahsequaid.com/7452/eid-ul-fitr-muslims-islamic-festival/>.
  6. “Muslim Population.” Muslim Population Worldwide Authentic(true) Information with Reference. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.islamicpopulation.com/africa/africa_islam.html>.
  7. Khan, Khola. “Eid-ul Fitr ( Muslims Islamic Festival ).” Daily Pakistan | JinnahSeQuaid. 17 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.jinnahsequaid.com/7452/eid-ul-fitr-muslims-islamic-festival/>.

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