The festival of Eid al-Fitr is an important religious event celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, and also signifies the start of a new month, Syawal.
Muslim communities worldwide celebrate the joyous occasion by visiting a mosque and gathering with their family and friends, although the way they go about the festivities might differ depending on a country’s culture. Below, we dive into the unique ways that this special occasion is celebrated around the world.
In these parts, Eid is more commonly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri. In pre-Covid Singapore, Geylang Serai is vibrant during this time with a colourful festival light-up. While the annual bazaar continues this year, it will be held online to observe safety protocols. Many Malay families are decked in new clothes that are usually colour-coordinated — men typically wear loose shirts with trousers known as baju Melayu and the women in baju kurung, a loose-fitting full-length blouse and skirt combination. Special dishes such as ketupat (rice cake), beef rendang (dry coconut stew), sambal (chilli paste), sayur lodeh (vegetable stew) and other Malay delicacies such as various kueh (cake) are served during this day.
Open houses welcoming neighbours, families and other visitors (including non-Muslims) is a traditional practice. It is common to greet people with “Salam Aidilfitri” or “Selamat Hari Raya” which means “Happy Eid”. During this time, the elderly will give children green packets with a token sum of Duit Raya (festive money). In Malaysia, Muslims also celebrate by lighting traditional bamboo cannon firecrackers known as meriam buluh, using kerosene in large hollow bamboo tubes.
Lebaran or Idul Fitri are the popular names for Eid al-Fitr in Indonesia, and it is a major holiday in the country, lasting two days in their calendar. During this time, Indonesians will buy and wear new clothes and footwear, and there’s a festive atmosphere in the air. Families will usually have a special Lebaran meal served, and dishes include ketupat, opor ayam (chicken cooked in coconut milk), rendang, sambal goreng ati (a spicy dish with liver and potatoes), sayur lodeh and lemang (a type of glutinous rice cake cooked in bamboo).
Various types of snacks including kueh, cookies, dodol (toffee-like sugar palm-based confection) and imported dates are also served during this day, together with fruit syrup beverages, such as a rose-flavoured drink known as bandung. The children usually receive money in colourful envelopes.
For Muslims in Turkey, Eid is also known as the Ramazan Bayrami and it is a three-day affair. The first day of Eid al-Fitr is called the Seker Bayrami (Candy Festival). It is customary for young children to visit their neighbours with well wishes of “Happy Bayram”, and in turn they will receive sweet treats wrapped in handkerchiefs. These include the baklava, a sweet pastry made from layers of filo and filled with nuts; and Turkish delight, a confection of gel and sugar. They might also receive a small amount of money.
Afghan Muslims start preparing for the Eid al-Fitr festival by cleaning their homes at least a week prior. Many visit their local bazaars to buy new clothes, sweets and snacks, including Jelabi (a sweet pretzel-shaped snack made by deep-frying maida flour), Shor-Nakhod (made with chickpeas) and Cake wa Kolcha (a simple cake, similar to pound cake). On the day of Eid al-Fitr, Afghans will first offer their prayers and then gather in their homes with their families, greeting one another by saying “Eid Mubarak“.
Family elders will give money and gifts to children during this time. Afghan men also welcome Eid with a fun food fight called Tokhm-Jangit where they gather in open spaces holding hard-boiled eggs and try to crack their opponent’s stash. When night falls, many households will light bonfires outside to gather around and socialise.
A mainstay in every Egyptian’s home is the kahk, a pretty cookie filled with nuts and covered in white sugar. The original recipe is said to date back to the 10th century. Most bakeries in the country still follow the traditional methods of making them, and will stock these delicacies before the end of Ramadan to prepare for the breaking of fast. While certain Middle Eastern countries use dates in their version of kahk, in Egypt they are traditionally stuffed with a special honey filling, walnuts and pistachios, dusted with powdered sugar and stored in tin boxes.
Muslims in India celebrate the joyous occasion by dressing up, wearing colourful bangles and adorning their hands and feet with beautiful henna (also known as mehndi) designs that range from simple to complex and intricate. Popular designs are flowers, which symbolise happiness, and the sun, which signifies immortality and knowledge. Special celebratory dishes are served during this time, including the sivayyan, a dish of toasted sweet vermicelli noodles with milk and dried fruit; and sheer khurma, a creamy vermicelli pudding with condensed milk.
Similar to the other countries, Saudi Arabians will dress up in fine new clothing – for men, an ankle-length white cotton shirt known as thawb and a head cover called kaffiyeh that is kept in place by a camel’s hair cord known as iqal. In public, women are expected to be fully veiled, wearing a long black cloak known as abayah. A head veil called hijab covers the head while a niqab covers the face. Muslims will usually gather at the home of the eldest member of the family.
A popular dish served is the kabsa – a hearty and delicious dish comprising rice, a mixture of spices, and served with braised meat on top. During Eid, it is usually topped with tender roasted lamb and enjoyed with guests. During this time, gifts are often exchanged, such as date-filled pastries, butter cookies with almonds or pine nuts, spice cake, Pashmina shawls and spices. Food is also given to the poor to continue in the spirit of Ramadan.
SilverKris wishes Selamat Hari Raya and Eid Mubarak to all our readers! Please remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures during this festive period, whether you’re dining out or doing house visits.
*Some of these images were taken before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.