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Happy Eid al-Fitr 2019

Millions of Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr this week, following a month of fasting - this year from 5th May to 4th June.

Eid al-Fitr - Arabic for “the feast of the breaking of the fast” - is when Muslims return to regular eating cycles and thank Allah for sustaining them during Ramadan, which they hope has “brought them closer to God”, explains The Independent.

The annual celebration was first marked by the Prophet Mohammed following a victory in battle. Eid begins today in the UK and can continue for up to three days. Some countries start the celebration earlier or later as the date depends on the sighting of the lunar crescent.

Followers of Islam observe a number of traditions during Eid al-Fitr, including donating money to charity. British Muslims are estimated to give an average of around £370 each to charity during Ramadan, according to the Charity Commission.

Events are being held across the country, including Birmingham’s Eid in the Park festival, the largest of its kind in Europe, today and London City Hall’s Eid Festival 2019 on Saturday. 

But what is this significance of this ancient religious festival, and how else is it celebrated across the world?

Food is at the heart of celebrations

Eid al-Fitr is a holiday dedicated to feasting and serves as the “the light at the end of the tunnel after a long and difficult month of fasting and abstaining”, says the Al Bawaba website.

Muslims typically enjoy a small breakfast ahead of morning prayers and then visit friends and relatives where a lavish feast is served.

But it isn’t just about food

While feasting is central to Eid, there are also religious obligations connected to the festival. Muslims will not only be celebrating the end of fasting, but giving thanks to Allah for providing them with strength through Ramadan. Eid is also a time for forgiveness, self-reflection and giving to charity, says the BBC.

The day starts early in the morning, with Muslims gathering at mosques or outdoor squares to perform Eid prayers. The community then celebrates together, with everyone sharing the food they have prepared.

“Growing up in India, my parents taught my brother and I that if you are blessed with abundance it’s your obligation, or rather it’s your privilege, to share your abundance with those less fortunate,” writes Ila Paliwal in HuffPost.

There are calls for it to be a public holiday in Britain

Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days and is a national holiday in Muslim countries. In the UK, “most people tend to celebrate for a day and will take time off work or school”, says The Independent.

In recent years, the UK government has come under growing pressure to have one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar recognised by British law.

When the issue was debated in Parliament in 2016, Tory MP Bob Blackman said: “Wouldn’t it be a statement that we as a nation embrace [Islam], and the people who hold [it] dear, and we are ready to recognise their place in our society?”

However, the government argued that while it was aware of the importance of the festival, the cost to the economy of another public holiday would be “considerable”.

How will it be celebrated in the UK

The biggest Eid celebration in Europe traditionally takes place in Birmingham, and this year is no exception with tens of thousands of people expected to attend an event at Small Heath Park for prayers, food and entertainment.

On Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan will lead the annual celebration in the capital, which culminates in festivities in Trafalgar Square, promising “an exciting stage line up, family fun and delicious food”. 

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