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Eid literally means a “festival” or “feast” in Arabic. There are two major eids in the Islamic calendar per year – Eid al-Fitr earlier in the year and Eid al-Adha later.
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day-long festival and is known as the “Lesser” or “Smaller Eid” when compared to Eid al-Adha, which is four-days-long and is known as the “Greater Eid.”
The two Eids recognize, celebrate and recall two distinct events that are significant to the story of Islam.
Eid al-Fitr means “the feast of breaking the fast.” The fast, in this instance, is Ramadan, which recalls the revealing of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad and requires Muslims to fast from sunrise to sundown for a month.
Eid al-Fitr features two to three days of celebrations that include special morning prayers. People greet each other with “Eid Mubarak,” meaning “Blessed Eid” and with formal embraces. Sweet dishes are prepared at home and gifts are given to children and to those in need. In addition, Muslims are encouraged to forgive and seek forgiveness. Practices vary from country to country.
The other festival, Eid al-Adha, is the “feast of the sacrifice.” It comes at the end of the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage by millions of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is obligatory once in a lifetime, but only for those with means.
Eid al-Adha recalls the story of how God commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail as a test of faith. The story, as narrated in the Quran, describes Satan’s attempt to tempt Ibrahim so he would disobey God’s command. Ibrahim, however, remains unmoved and informs Ismail, who is willing to be sacrificed.
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the 10th month in the Islamic calendar.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of the final month in the Islamic calendar.
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and dates are calculated based on lunar phases. Since the Islamic calendar year is shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar year by 10 to 12 days, the dates for Ramadan and Eid on the Gregorian calendar can vary year by year.
Eid al-Fitr, as it follows the fasting of Ramadan, is also seen as a spiritual celebration of Allah’s provision of strength and endurance.
Amid the reflection and rejoicing, Eid al-Fitr is a time for charity, known as Zakat al-Fitr. Eid is meant to be a time of joy and blessing for the entire Muslim community and a time for distributing one’s wealth.
Charity to the poor is a highly emphasized value in Islam.
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