The Muslim Festival of Eid-ul-Fitr
Celebrating the end of Ramadan
by Caroline Donne
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
Celebrating the end of Ramadan and the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr; thankfulness; helping those in need.
Preparation and materials
- You could have any of the following available to show during the assembly: a traditional Eid-ul-Fitr card or an example of Islamic calligraphy or patterns; some traditional Eid-ul-Fitr cakes or sweets; a picture of the moon.
- As with all world faith assemblies, there may well be children present who know more about the festival or have personal knowledge they can add.
- Ask if anyone has looked up at the night sky this week. Could they see the moon? What shape was it? Was it a large, round, full moon, half a moon, or just a tiny sliver of a moon? Explain that many millions of people around the world are especially watching the shape of the moon at the moment because when the new crescent moon appears they will know that it is time to begin a great celebration.
This is called the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid means 'happiness' in Arabic and the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is one of great happiness and celebration. Explain that for the last month Muslims have been fasting: each day they have woken up early, before the sun rises, to eat a meal and drink, and then they do not eat or drink again until it is dark. This is called fasting. Imagine what it would be like. It's hard to do, but fasting helps Muslims to come closer to God (who they call Allah) and to think about people who do not have enough to eat and drink every day of their lives. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr shows that Ramadan has finished and as the old moon begins to disappear Muslims know that the fast of Ramadan is coming to an end and that it will soon be Eid-ul-Fitr.
- Ask the children how they celebrate a special occasion. What do they do (e.g. eat special food, meet with friends and family, go somewhere special, send cards, buy presents)? Eid-ul-Fitr is full of all those things. Muslims send special cards to one another, which are beautifully decorated with words from the holy book the Qur'an. Extra special cards are decorated with gold dust and small precious stones to make the letters and to decorate the borders of the cards. They sometimes have the words 'Eid Mubarak' written in Arabic. This means 'have a happy and blessed Eid'.
- So Eid-ul-Fitr begins when the new moon appears after Ramadan over the Muslims' holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Very often Muslims who live in America or Europe will telephone their friends and families in the Arabic countries to ask if the new moon has appeared yet. Many people stay up all night to see the new moon.
On the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr Muslims will dress in their best clothes. Sometimes new clothes are bought especially for the occasion. Often a special perfume is worn by men and women. Girls and women might have decorated their hands with reddish-brown patterns which might look like leaves or flowers or swirling shapes. These are called Mehndi patterns. Then the most important part of the day begins as Muslims go to the mosque, their special place of worship. It's a time to give thanks to Allah and to ask for help to lead a good life.
After the prayers Muslims meet their friends and families and the celebrations begin. There are lots of smiles and hugs. Sometimes there will be stalls outside the mosque with special Eid-ul-Fitr gifts and food to buy. But before they leave the mosque Muslims make sure they have given something to help people who are poor or in need. This is because they believe that in God's eyes everyone is equal and that everything belongs to God, so money should be shared fairly and those who have enough to live on must help those who do not have enough.
Then it's time to eat and to eat well. All sorts of different foods are eaten depending on which part of the world you are in. It's a time for families to get together too and a time to prepare the best food. Very often the food is spicy, and sweet things are also a great favourite. Children look forward to this time because this is when presents are given.
After the meal the celebrations continue. In some countries there are acrobats and processions to watch. In Saudi Arabia people like to watch camel racing, and horse racing is also popular in the Middle East and North Africa.
Focus on the themes
Eid-ul-Fitr is a great time of celebration and happiness and it's also a time to be thoughtful. For Muslims it is a special time to be thankful to God for helping them through the fast of Ramadan and for helping them to lead good lives.
Time for reflection
Invite the children to sit quietly and maybe to close their eyes if it helps them to concentrate. Ask them to think about the good things in their own lives. Think about the things that they want to give thanks for. Think about the things that make them happy.
They might like to make the following prayer their own prayer, or just think about the words:
God of all,
Thank you for the good things in our lives.
Thank you for the times when we are happy.
Help us to share our happiness with people who may be sad or lonely.
We pray for people around the world who do not have enough to eat -
help us to be generous with what we have.
'The best gift' (Come and Praise, 59)