|by Summar Ghias||Pop Culture and Travel, Malaysia, Pakistan, London||9|
For 1.2 billion Muslims, today marks the end of a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection. It's also the beginning of the much-awaited celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr.
As far as Muslim celebrations go, this is the event of the year, a time for feasting, mingling, and exchanging gifts. In the morning, worshippers put on their best clothes, eat a small meal, and go to the mosque for a congregational prayer and sermon. But the types of celebration and food that follow vary from country to country, an amalgam of traditions, cultural festivities, and national pastimes.
Eid is a two-day-long national holiday in Malaysia, but the unofficial celebration lasts a month. Muslims invite their relatives and friends to 'open houses' to eat traditional dishes like ketupat, a square-shaped rice cake wrapped in coconut and rendang, a meat delicacy cooked in gravy and coconut milk.
In Turkey, sweets are the food of choice. After eating traditional desserts like baklava and lokum (Turkish delight), children roam the neighborhood collecting other candy and chocolate.
In Egypt, Eid is a day of remembrance, too. Before the festivities, people pay a visit to the graves of their loved ones. Many picnic in parks, or take felucca rides on the Nile as part of the three-day celebration.
The night before Eid (called Chand Raat or the night of the moon) in Pakistan is devoted to the application of henna. People visit the bazaars and malls in search of gifts. The next day, elders also give Eidi, a monetary gift, to members of their family.
The festivities don't just take place in Muslim countries either. In London, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Mayor of London have organized the third annual "Eid in the Square", an event where Muslim entertainers perform in Trafalgar Square.
In the U.S., Muslims take the day off to go to the mosque and to celebrate with family. The Empire State Building in New York will be green tonight and tomorrow night in honor of the holiday (for the second year in a row).
As a courtesy, you can wish your Muslim friends "Happy Eid!" or "Eid Mubarak!" today.