It is a day of rejoicing, because in Islam, devout worship and the performance of good deeds to get the Pleasure of Allah are considered just cause for celebration. After a month of continuous fasting, Muslims are endorsed to rejoice.
- The night before `Eid, the Shawaal moon is sighted:
On the eve of the 29th or 30th of Ramadan, eager eyes look up towards the sky to spot the crescent that signals the arrival of `Eid. Climbing rooftops or gathering in balconies to peer at the night sky is an exciting ritual, especially for children, who love any kind of adventure. Once the crescent is spotted, smiles break across faces as people greet each other with `Eid wishes, recite the Islamic takbeer of "Allahu Akbar" (meaning "Allah is the greatest"), and light-heartedly exchange hugs. Eager hands are raised in supplication to Allah, just the way Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم] prayed on spotting the crescent. Muslims pray to Allah that He accepts all the acts of worship they did during Ramadan, and that He blesses them with higher levels of faith and the steadfastness to continue on the path of righteousness for the rest of the year.
The women hasten to start preparing the recipes for the next day's celebration, a major part of which will be eating a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Shining new clothes, shoes and accessories are taken out and prepared for the next morning's prayer. The girls and women decorate their hands with mehndi or "henna", and it is permissible for one Muslim household to host a pre-`Eid dinner party for the ladies to get together to put henna on each other. However, staying up late to "party" is discouraged. The focus should be retiring to bed early in order to awaken easily before dawn the next day.
This night is also the time period during which the charity of Fitr should be distributed to the poor and needy by the head of the household. This is a fixed amount of staple food such as flour, dates or rice; alternatively, the price of this staple could also be given as Fitr charity.
A point to note is that some Muslims spend the night before `Eid roaming the city's streets, ogling members of the opposite sex, thronging markets on the pretext of buying bangles, listening to music, having ice cream or getting henna put on hands. Fireworks and other paraphernalia are used to break the peace and quiet of the night. Such activities are against the spirit of Islam and the etiquette of celebrating the arrival of `Eid in a dignified way.
- The morning of `Eid before the prayer:
The whole family should wake up well before dawn. They should perform the Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, have breakfast, take a full shower, then get dressed in their best clothes for the `Eid prayer. This prayer is performed in congregation behind an imam at any open place, called the `Eidgah. Women are especially encouraged to participate in this prayer, although nowadays women tend to make excuses, the foremost of which is that they can not get ready or dressed up in time, or that it is too tedious to get the children ready at such an early hour. They should get dressed up for `Eid prayer, but should observe hijab when they appear before men.
It is the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم] to eat something sweet as breakfast before proceeding for `Eid prayer. This can be a few odd-numbered dates, or sheer khorma (pictured), a traditional sweet dish made of milk, dry fruit and vermicelli.
It is also the sunnah to recite the Islamic takbeer "Allahu Akbar" continuously until the `Eid prayer commences.
- `Eid prayer:
Mosques and open grounds are used to conduct the huge congregation of `Eid prayer. The prayer is led by an imam and consists of two units, or "rak'ahs". Several takbeer's of Allahu Akbar are reiterated during this prayer (this characteristic is the main distinguishing quality of the `Eid prayer, one that makes it different from the normal supererogatory salah prayed at the same time on other days). After the prayer, the Muslims sit at their places in congregation and listen to the spiritually-rejuvenating sermon -- or khutbah -- delivered by the imam, which lasts no more than 15 to 20 minutes at the most. In this sermon, he thanks Allah Almighty for blessing everyone with the month of Ramadan, and prays for everyone's acts of worship therein to be accepted.
After the khutbah ends, the Muslims spend a few minutes greeting and meeting each other, exchanging hugs and kisses, and/or exchanging gifts. Usually the women are in a separate portion of the ground or mosque, and their children are with them, so this part of the `Eid morning is filled with gleeful chatter and children's laughter.
- Eating and drinking favorite food in moderation:
After `Eid prayer, Muslims go visiting. Families usually gather at an elder's residence in Muslim countries, and at a community center, or another Muslim family's house or yard, in non-Muslim countries. A large variety of food is laid out as brunch.
This is the first time in a month's time that Muslims can openly eat in the morning on a communal level, so the spirits are high and the mood is festive. There is nothing wrong with having such a party on `Eid day, as long as the Islamic requirements, of preventing mixing between men and women, are followed.
Traditionally, an `Eid trolley or platter is prepared by the women of every household, which includes sweet dishes and other recipes, varying according to local cuisine. It is important to note, however, that everyone should be careful not to overeat or overspend on eating during `Eid celebrations. Families tend to compete in buying the most expensive attire to wear on `Eid get-togethers and extravagant dishes to serve on their banquet, which goes into the realm of excess or extravagance, and should be avoided.
- Meeting neighbors, relatives, and other friends:
The rest of the day, Muslim families can call on neighbors, friends and other distant relatives. People utilize the festival of `Eid to catch up with others, whom they can not meet for the rest of the busy year. In Muslim countries, three days of `Eid are national holidays, so families have ample time to go visiting. In non-Muslim countries, though, `Eid day is a working day as usual, so this aspect of visiting everyone might not be so common as part of `Eid celebration.
- Using permissible modes of entertainment to enjoy the rest of the day:
The Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم] allowed children, particularly minor girls, to play the "daf" - a kind of drum - on the day of `Eid, and to sing decent, inspiring poems to its beat. This sunnah can be followed by Muslim children on `Eid even today. The Islamic restrictions and regulations within which this may be done, however, are listed here.
Families can eat out at restaurants, visit the zoo or amusement park, host a backyard barbeque, or go for a picnic on the beach or hillside.
They can also play sports that they enjoy, such as cricket, which families particularly enjoy playing together in South Asia, or baseball, frisbee, volleyball or just catch. It is better to indulge in ourdoor activities than to spend the `Eid holidays lounging before the television, viewing one entertainment program after another.
Muslims should also get in touch with their remote loved ones and wish them a Happy `Eid; this can be done over the phone, via tangible or electronic `Eid greeting-cards, or text messages.