Today marks Eid al-Fitr, an opportunity for all of us, regardless of religion, to reflect upon our humanity and the values that make us human.

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Today marks Eid al-Fitr, the day that Muslims await each year. After performing fast for a month during Ramadan, they finish it with celebration and family reunions. Special dishes are served, and kids receive money from older relatives. Most importantly, it’s a day for many social aspects and messages.

But Eid is not just for Muslims. It’s actually a celebration for everyone.

Eid of breaking the fast

The word eid in Arabic means “celebration.” Eid al-Fitr is the earlier celebration in the Islamic calendar, the other being Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal month in the Hijri year, based on the observation of the new moon by local religious authorities. Meanwhile, Fitr means breaking the fast. So as a whole, Eid al-Fitr means “the celebration of breaking fast, which makes sense, as it ends Ramadan (fasting) month.

Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday, when Muslims give thanks to Allah and ask him for forgiveness, as well as for completing the fast the month before. Muslims perform the specific Eid al-Fitr prayers, followed by family gatherings and feasting, which is a must, since fasting on the day is forbidden by religion.

In Indonesia, for example, going back to one’s hometown (AKA mudik) is a traditional custom nearing Eid al-Fitr. In the later weeks of Ramadan, millions of people from various places go back to visit their relatives in their place of origin. Family visits are usually filled with special dishes. In my own extended family, we have Muslim relatives whom we visit annually.

Similarities with Advent and Christmas

In my own observation, I see Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr as similar to Advent and Christmas in western countries. Both have religious roots, both run for approximately a month, and both end with a major celebration.

And both are quite consumerist and social in nature.

As the precursor to a major holiday, Ramadan is often a good time for businesses to sell their wares. Many kinds of food and beverages are offered for breaking fast. Usually, big brands already show their Ramadan ads many weeks before Ramadan begins. Religious clothing and equipment, such as prayer rugs, hijab, and so on, become more sought after, as Muslims try to be more religious during their holy month. Gifts such as hampers, parcels, and cookies are popular as well. People often buy new clothes in the anticipation of Eid al-Fitr.

In Indonesia, there are several iconic Eid foods. One of them is the nastar cookies, usually filled with pineapple jam. Another is ketupat, which is a type of rice cake. The rice is cooked inside of a pouch made from woven young palm leaves.

Nastar cookies with pineapple jam fill. These are yummy one-bites.
Ketupat, an iconic Eid food item in Indonesia.

Forgive me body and soul

One custom of Eid al-Fitr is the forgiving of others. People approach each other and say, “Please forgive me body and soul (or mind).” It’s customary to say this even for non-Muslims to Muslims. Organizations and neighborhoods usually hold a special event for this purpose, which often lasts for hours, depending on the number of people. In Indonesia, this event is called halal bihalal.

People in halal bihalal event in a university in Indonesia. In the event, they would handshake (or doing namaste during the pandemic) and say to each other, “please forgive me body and mind”.

I find this to be the most important aspect of Eid al-Fitr. Fixing relationships with people, turning a new leaf, and moving forward are good things to do. Eid al-Fitr provides an opportunity to start over.

A celebration for all

While it’s a national two-day holiday for many Muslim-majority countries, Eid is celebrated in many other countries as well, including parts of the United States.

Some Christians in Ambon, Maluku island, helped guard a mosque during Eid prayers. In Bali, in the same year, several Hindu Balinese also did the same.

No matter how we identify religiously (or nonreligiously), Eid al-Fitr can be a way to reflect upon our humanity and the values that make us human.

Happy Eid, Eid Mubarak.

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A Javanese person living in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. Believing Christian until 17, began to doubt at 17, eventually deconverted at 18 during transition from high school to college....