This week, Muslim Americans will come together to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with lots of sweets, gift-giving and family gatherings.
Eid Al-Fitr (that's eed Al-fe-turr) is Arabic for "holiday of breaking of the fast" and begins at sunset on the last night of Ramadan. It marks the ending of a one-month fast, when 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide celebrate with festivities that last three days.
This year, Ramadan is expected to end on July 6, so Muslims everywhere will have been busy making preparations for the Eid festivities. And like Ramadan, there tends to be confusion in Western countries about what exactly Muslims do during these three days of celebration. Here's some of what they will do.
The night before is spent shopping for new clothes and baking sweets
Every single member of the family gets to shop for new clothes and shoes for Eid. Shopping centers are filled with people looking for the best outfit to wear the next morning during prayer.
Women usually gather in the eldest family members’ home to bake sweets—lots of sweets. Pistachio cookies, Baklava, and many more desserts are prepared and set up in the dining room for the morning.
Sweet date cookies are the official dessert of Eid and are given out throughout the holiday among many Muslim families in the U.S.
Temporary henna hand tattoos are a symbol of celebration for some Muslim women in the U.S., worn to accessorize their new outfits that will be worn the next morning for prayer.
The holiday starts with prayer and reverence
At the end of the month of Ramadan, Muslims gather very early in the day at mosques, banquet halls, or stadiums to listen to cheerful Eid chants and to pray to mark the official beginning of the three days of celebration. Public officials, members of the Christian and Jewish clergy, and other non-Muslims often join in to show the importance of multifaith unity.
Eid is also marked by generosity. Adults, family, and friends give cash to children, and, just as with Christmas and Hanukkah, it's very common for young people to exchange gifts. Many people also use the occasion to give charitable donations to the poor and needy.
Food, family, and friends are central
Most importantly, Eid is about community. Eid Mubarak, which means "a blessed holiday" in Arabic, is a common greeting between Muslims during the holiday. Phones are flooded with cheerful and happy messages. Young people compete in a constant competition for the best Eid selfie or photo-message. Family and friends gather after prayers to eat, with entire generations coming together to exchange gifts. It's tradition to visit the eldest family members' home to celebrate with them and cheer them on, with sons and daughters required to bring them sweets and gifts.
Muslims also take time to visit their loved ones' graves with fresh flowers and prayers to God to have mercy on the deceased. It is an act worthy of praise in the Muslim community and is a way for the living to remember the dead even amid days of celebration.
All of these things combine to make Eid one of the most special, moving periods of the entire year. Hopefully, wherever people are celebrating Eid, they are doing so with sweets, selfies, and love. So Eid Mubarak, dear American Muslim friends!
Alaa Basatneh is a human-rights activist and a writer at Fusion focusing on the Arab world. She is the protagonist of the 2013 documentary "#ChicagoGirl."