Eids

Annually, Muslims celebrate two main festivals, or feasts, known as Eids.

The first, Eid al-Fitr, or the "Feast of the Breaking" or the "Feast of Fast-Breaking," celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The holiday lasts for three days. It is sometimes also known as the "Smaller Eid."

The second, Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage and commemorates Abraham's (Ibrahim's) willingness to sacrifice his son. The holiday lasts for three or four days. It is sometimes also known as the "Greater Eid."

The Eids are both statutory holidays in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

Timing

The Eid holidays fall on the same date each year in the lunar hejira calendar, or Islamic calendar. However, the holiday's observance may be delayed a day if the moon is not sighted.

Because the hejira calendar is 11 days shorter than the West's Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar, the Eid holidays do not fall on the same day of the year according to Western calculations. For example, in 2009, the Eid al-Fitr holiday began on September 21. In 2010, it began on September 10. In 2009, the Eid al-Adha holiday occurred from November 27 to 30, 2009, and in 2010, it occurred from November 16 to 19.

Celebration & Observances

During Ramadan, shops and malls in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are open late into the night, and filled with light and color - and with sale signs and crowds of people shopping for gifts for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr! In addition to giving gifts and enjoying festive meals with family and friends, Eid al-Fitr also involves attending special Eid prayers (to which one wears one's best new clothes), and it is a recommended time to perform zakat (charitable almsgiving).

Eid al-Adha is also celebrated with prayer, visiting of family and friends, and gift-giving. However, since it is a feast commemorating the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, observance of the holiday includes donating and slaughtering a sheep, goat, etc., to feed the poor.

And whether you are Muslim or not, do greet Muslims with "Happy Eid" or "Eid Mubarak" during the holidays.

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