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Ramadan comes at a different time every year because it is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a date-keeping system based on lunar cycles, unlike the Gregorian calendar (the one used by most of the world, including the U.S.), which is based on the solar year. A new month begins with the appearance of the new moon, or the crescent moon, and ends with the next appearance of a new moon.
The month of Ramadan thus moves backwards about 10 days every year relative to the Gregorian calendar.
Different communities follow different protocols for determining when a new month begins. Some communities follow a set lunar calendar, others use scientific observations to make an official decree about the arrival of a new moon, and still, others mark a new month only after the actual sighting of the crescent moon in their community.
Though the exact dates of Ramadan are never uniform around the world, they come pretty close.
The month-long holiday is observed principally in Muslim-majority countries in Africa and Asia but also by the believers around the world, including the roughly 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S. During Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset, observant Muslims (with some exceptions, mostly health related) are forbidden to eat or drink (or smoke, or engage in sexual activity) to purify their thoughts and increase their devotion to God.
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