Families observing the daily fasting of Ramadan are counting down to the festivities of Eid al-Fitr at the end of the month.
As Ramadan ends, the next month Shawwal begins with Eid al-Fitr, which means the Festival of Breaking Fast.
It’s one of the biggest events in the Islamic calendar but dates vary each year, meaning there is great anticipation and excitement over when it will take place.
Eid al-Fitr festivities last for three days and there are official holidays at this time in Muslim-majority countries.
Saudi Arabia is expected to have four days of Eid national holiday, while the nation’s government offices shut down for an additional five days.
It’s not a public holiday in the UK but schools can allow a day off for religious observance.
Europe’s biggest Eid celebrations take place in Birmingham with a record number of 140,000 people attending in 2018.
But the massive gathering – held in Small Heath Park – was cancelled in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions.
And it won’t be allowed to go ahead in 2021 either, said Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre (GLMCC), one of the key organisers in the group of local mosques who put on the massive event.
Six separate prayer gatherings will be held at GLMCC instead, to prevent a huge congregation of thousands as in previous years.
Why does the date of Eid al-Fitr change?
The Islamic calendar – also called the Hijri calendar – is based on the cycle of the moon and consists of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days.
This lunar calendar is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar-based Gregorian calendar followed by much of the western world.
It means that Islamic dates drift back by 10 to 11 days in each regular western year. By 2030, there will even be two Ramadans in one year.
When will the Eid moon be seen?
Muslim months last for 29 or 30 days. If the first faint crescent of the new moon isn’t seen on the 29th day, then the existing month goes on for one more day.
According to the Ramadan timetable of Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre (GLMCC) in Birmingham, Tuesday May 11 will be the 29th day and Wednesday May 12 the 30th day.
Ramadan will end on either of those days, depending on a verified moon sighting, with Eid then on May 12 or 13 respectively. Islamic Relief UK is working to the same calendar.
UK astronomical predictions suggest that no sightings of the first crescent of the new moon are likely on May 11 anywhere in the world.
A sighting by telescope is possible on Wednesday, May 12 from parts of the Middle East.
While some communities follow the announcements from Saudi Arabia, others look for moon sightings in the UK or Morocco and are expecting Eid al-Fitr to fall on May 13 or 14.
So it could be a day different for some congregations and countries, as is always the case with Islamic dates.
The Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia predicts that Eid al-Fitr 2021 will fall on Thursday, May 13.
GLMCC is among those who follow the Saudi announcements.
1.Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important Muslims festivals in the Islamic calendar and marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It takes place at the start of the next month, Shawwal.
2.Celebrate Eid, the one-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park, sees as many as 140,000 Muslims joining in a single congregation – but this event has been unable to take place during the coronavirus pandemic
3.Islamic religious festivals are based on the moon’s cycle. This is different from the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun and used by most of the western world.
4.Eid, which means “festival of breaking the fast”, is a religious holiday and a day of celebrations when Muslims will give thanks to Allah, and exchange small gifts and cards.
5.People usually dress in new clothes or in their finest outfits for the day.
6.Eid al-Fitr begins on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month in the lunar calendar, but usually carries on for three days. Muslims can opt for a further six days of fasting in this new month – these do not have to be consecutive. Anyone completing this is said to have completed the equivalent of fasting all year round. This is because Islamic tradition says that a good deed is rewarded 10 times – completing Ramadan and the six days during Shawwal, times 10, is a year.
7.Giving to charity is an important part of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. This is usually donations of food to the poor so they too can enjoy Eid celebrations.