Eid al Fitr is one of the two most important holidays of the year to Muslims, the other one being Eid al Adha. Eid al Fitr falls on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, which directly follows the fasting month of Ramadan. It is the day on which the fasting ends and feasting takes place.
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The date of Eid al Fitr moves on the Western calendar each year by 11 days or so due to the discrepancies between a lunar and a solar based time-keeping system. Technically, the precise date cannot be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, and moon-sighting committees must declare when Eid has begun. The declarations of the Saudi Arabian committee are usually followed.
As Eid al Fitr begins, the atmosphere in Kuwait shifts from one of great solemnity to one of great festivity. The celebrations continue for three or four days straight, though the first day is the most important. It is considered a time of “new beginnings,” and so past grievances are often forgiven at this time. Houses are also cleaned out thoroughly and decorated with lights and signs saying “Eid Mubarak!” (Happy Eid!). New clothes are also worn, or at least one’s best clothes washed and put on, before heading to mosque to say prayers and hear a “khutba” (sermon).
Before entering the mosque, worshipers give “zakat al fitr,” a charitable contribution most often in the form of food, which will go to the poor and needy. At home, friends and family also often give gifts to one another, but the “eidiah,” a gift of money from elders to children, is most common. Children are even encouraged to go knock on neighbours’ doors and say “Eid Mubarak!” and hope to receive some additional eidiah gifts.
Lambs and other animals are slaughtered in great numbers for Eid al Fitr. And while this is a sacrificial ritual, it also results in extra food on the table. In fact, as fasting is commanded during Ramadan, it is forbidden during Eid al Fitr, so everyone will be feasting. The day begins with a small, sweet breakfast that usually includes dates. After going to mosque, it continues with a large lunch with the family, and there are always leftovers, or even a whole new feast, when dinner time arrives.