Eid al-Fitr, roughly and aptly translated to mean “festival of breaking the fast,” signifies the celebration of the end of the holy month of Ramadan-in which Muslims fast for thirty days from dawn to sunset. It falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal(which, in Arabic, means to carry). Muslims start off the day by waking up early(the time of Eid prayer is set by each community), putting on their best clothes(many Muslims choose to wear cultural clothing from their motherland) and gathering in a prayer hall, usually a convention center or open field. There, they listen to a khudbah(sermon) and pray two rakats(units) of prayer in which they take special care to reaffirm the oneness of God and his greatness by reciting extra takbirat(Allahu-Akbar-God is the Greatest). After the prayer, Muslims hug and greet each other to wish each other a happy Eid. Before going home, each person, who is financially able pays alms(zakat) to the poor. The rest of the day is spent reconnecting with friends and family, and children get an extra treat in Eidi, which is money given to children by their elder relatives and close family/friends. Festivities after the Eid prayer vary quite a bit depending on the culture and the religiosity of the Muslims in question. As a Muslim of Pakistani descent, I will tend to wear a new shalwar kurta to prayer and spend the day with friends and family eating traditional South Asian cuisine, prayer, and engaging in South asian singing and dancing.
Eid is definitely a rite of intensification- it unites Muslims of all cultures and reaffirms the faith of Muslims who are not pious enough or able to fast for thirty days but still identify by the faith. Indeed, the Eid sermon and prayer seeks to reinforce community and religious values. It is also a great chance for the community to integrate converts and reverts socially and to establish solidarity with them. More specifically , the extra takbirat, which work as value repetition, serve to remind Muslims that God comes first even after Ramadan, in which Muslims find themselves engaged in the most worship and on a spiritual “high.” What is more, Eid activates the status relationship between the imam and his larger community. The khudbah given annually is a sort of religious “state of the union” type speech in which the imam can talk about the community and its future moving forward. Not only that, Eid is one of the two holidays Muslims have in the year and it offers support for the impoverished in the community(if the zakat is given with integrity) and thus enables social cohesion by chipping a bit at economic inequality. The zakat also helps those struggling financially to enjoy Eid and be included in the festivities. In non-Muslim majority countries, the celebration of Eid gives Muslims a chance to extend their gratitude and generosity to the secular community and teach people about Islam and the cultures of the Islamic world. For Muslims who gained a lot spiritually from Ramadan like me, Eid presents an opportunity to prove to myself I could continue to display the good character and habits that our holy book, the Quran, prescribes to Muslims-outside the setting of Ramadan.