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Why Millions of People Around the World Are Celebrating Tonight

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This evening’s sunset marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr.

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For millions of people around the world, this evening’s sunset is a particularly special one. After a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, Muslims will observe the end of Ramadan by doing just the opposite—feasting. It’s the begining of Eid al-Fitr.

The month of Ramadan is determined by the Islamic calendar, and as is the case with all things lunar-based, the exact date and time of Eid al-Fitr depends on the location. The holiday begins in the ninth month of the calendar with the first sight of the new moon, and it ends with the first sight of a new, crescent moon. During the month, Ramadan observers abstain from food and water during the daylight hours—breakfast, or suhoor, is eaten before sunrise and the evening meal, iftar, at dusk. 

Hot samosas in Bangalore.
The feast after the fast
It makes perfect sense that food is at the center of Eid al-Fitr. While traditions vary from country to country, the gathering of family and friends for a communal meal is a global custom—as is a spread of delicious sweets. In some countries such as the UAE and Jordan, the holiday lasts up to three days. 

In Morocco, a classic Eid-al-Fitr breakfast includes a laasida porridge made with semolina or couscous, covered with butter and honey.

In Chiapas, Mexico, it’s a day to celebrate with tortillas and chicken mole. Throughout Indonesia, ketupat is a holiday staple—palm leaves are woven into a diamond-shaped basket, packed with rice dumplings, and then steamed. 

Ketupat, ready for stuffing.
In India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, lentil-and-meat stuffed samosas fill the streets, and Hyderbadi haleem, a stew, makes an appearance at many meals. Many dishes are washed down with jallab (a popular Palestinian drink with fresh pine nuts and raisins, dates, grape molasses, and rose water) and followed with a banquet of sweets—including a number of date-based cookies, such as ma’amoul. 

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For many, the fasting month is a time of self-reflection, as well as a practice in self-discipline—a practice that can seem especially tricky in places like northern Scandinavia, where the sun stays up around the clock during the summer months. It’s also supposed to be a time of peace. After the recent attacks in Baghdad, Istanbul, Orlando, and Medina, Jeddah, and Qatif, to name a few, moments such as this one when over 100 people broke fast in the streets of New York City are needed more than ever.

No matter where the sunset, here’s to peace, happiness, and a lot of good eating—Eid Mubarak!

>>Next: Destination Spotlight on Marrakesh

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