At The Little Market, we are proud to celebrate cultural diversity. Our community of supporters, including customers, readers, our team, and the artisans we work with, are from all over the world. We value inclusivity, and we are ethically sourcing products from more than 65 artisan groups in over 25 countries. On this blog, Cultural Exchange, we love to explore different cultural traditions and holidays recognized across the globe. Today, we focus on Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar based on the moon’s phases. The dates of Ramadan change every year and are based on the new moon. Based on Islamic tradition, it is believed that, in this month, the prophet Mohammed received the first revelations of the holy book of Islam, the Qurʾān. During this month of heightened spirituality, Muslims aim to strengthen their relationship with God, often through spiritual discipline, self-reflection, and increased charity.
There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world who may observe Ramadan. Ramadan practices may vary depending on the region and individual preferences, but it is commonly a month of fasting. Fasting, or Siyam, during the holy month of Ramadan represents one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Observers will not eat or drink (including water) from dawn until dusk, an act that creates empathy for people experiencing food and water insecurity. Once the sunset prayer is practiced, friends and family come together to break the fast, known as iftar, often starting with date fruits and water followed by a meal. Additional prayers are held and the holy Qurʾān is recited. Some people such as pregnant, sick, and older individuals are not required to fast. Exceptions are also made for individuals who are traveling or menstruating.
Traditions and Rituals of Ramadan
It is common for those who observe Ramadan to pray about five times a day. As the end of the holiday gets closer, for most practices, prayer increases. Wudu is a ritual for the purification of the body before prayer and reading the Qur’an. The practice of Wudu varies for Muslims; for Sunni Muslims, it is the act of ritually cleaning with a small amount of water over the head or feet. As for Shia Muslims, it is the act of washing the face once or twice with your right hand, washing both the arms including the elbows once or twice, wiping one-fourth of the head with the water left on your right hand, and wiping both the feet and including the ankles with the water remaining on both hands.
During the month of Ramadan, it is important to give to charity, particularly charities that focus on poverty and hunger.
Suhoor: Waking up before dawn, this is the meal that is eaten before fasting for the entire day. Then it is proceeded with the fajr prayer. Also suhoor is meant to recognize the blessings that allow for the ability to fast.
Iftar: This is known as the sunset meal, in most places, and it is consumed during the night. Traditionally, the meal includes dates with water or milk.
One of the primary Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and lasts for a period of three days. Many Muslims gather for a communal prayer at daybreak on the first day of Eid. After the prayer, there are official receptions, presents are exchanged, meals are shared, and friends and family celebrate together.
Eid food – Breaking Fast
Throughout the world, people will be breaking fast with foods of their culture and geographical location. Here are some examples of foods during Eid:
Morocco: Iaasida and Tagine – Popular throughout North Africa, Iaasida is a simple and sweet breakfast dish consisting of couscous, butter, honey, and seasoning. Tagine chicken may also be included with this dish, but commonly during Eid, dried fruits are used for tagine.
Afghanistan: Bolan – Bolani is a savory flatbread dish stuffed with either leafy greens, such as spinach, or potatoes, pumpkin, or lentils.
United Kingdom: Biryani – Biryani is a savory dish containing meat (protein of choice is based on the person’s preference) and rice with a side of raita (cucumber, mint, and yogurt dip), salad, and pickles.
Malaysia: Rendang- Rendang is a traditional dish that consists of beef with spicy coconut curry.
Sharing gifts and celebrating with family and friends is also common at the end of Ramadan.
To those observing Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr: Ramadan Mubarak and Eid Mubarak!
BBC, Britannica, Britannica, CNN, History.com, #MuslimGirl, Pew Research Center, Vox, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Middle East Eye, Independent, Independent, Culture Trip, 30 Days of Prayer, and Charity Navigator