Well, since everyone is asking for it, here’s a modern guide to Eid!
In a few days, hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid’l Fitr (or Eid in short; one can greet his or her Muslim friends Eid Mubarak on these days), which marks the end of Ramadan and is a major religious festival in Islamic culture. While here in the Philippines, it’s just another opportunity to file an extra holiday (this year’s official holiday is on Thursday, which means that workers get a chance to have a long weekend) or to get 200 percent of one’s regular salary if one decided to report to the workplace.
Considering that many of us are unaware of the reasons why Muslims here in the Philippines and abroad celebrate Eid, I thought that it would be a good idea to embark on a modest undertaking to help people visualize what it is all about – thus the attempt to write a modern guide to Eid!
Basically, it is a town fiesta, Christmas, Easter, All Saints’ Day, and Thanksgiving all rolled up in one festival; before the rise of the global pandemic, people used to visit their loved ones (it used to include both living and the dead; one only visits close relatives or keep it as a family affair these days), conduct fun games for the crowd (which do include palo sebo and tug of war back in the days of the old normal, as well as digital alternatives such as Kahoot and Quizizz), and prepare huge banquets in which friends, acquaintances, and neighbors could partake in sumptuous meals – this practically meant that my wife bakes a huge Basque burnt cheesecake and prepares lots of Turkish desserts such as sheqerpare and baklava for any potential visitors, while I help in the chicken by cooking chicken adobo and kare-kare. Children also get extra love and moolah during this period as their elders shower them with gifts and cash during this period.
The reason why Eid exists in the first place is because it comes after the thirty-day period of fasting and reflection called Ramadan. During this month, Muslims are not just required to abstain from drinking and eating from dawn to sunset; the days of the month are also a period where they try to expunge away bad habits such as lying and backbiting, as well as improve one’s self in general through acquiring mental and emotional fortitude – one can think of it as the Muslim version of the mental detox routine. Also, through fasting, Muslims learn to empathize with the less fortunate among us in society; after all, we do not really understand something unless we get to experience it personally, right?
In addition, while it is a time for celebrations and reunions, it also a time for doing things that would impact the community in a positive manner, as all Muslims who possess the means to do so are required to give something called sadaqa al-fitr (loosely translated as the “charity for fast breaking”), which is basically the cost of two and a half kilos of rice – equivalent to around P120. While it is true that it is possible to do it with only that amount, it is considered more meritorious to give people the amount of three decent meals per day (a ballpark amount would be anywhere between P450-600) and many people even go beyond that amount when they do their social responsibility duties, knowing that there are many out there who suffer from hunger especially in the time of the pandemic.
While it is true that the official holiday only lasts for one day here in the Philippines, it is traditionally celebrated up to a total of three days; this is evident in other countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, and elsewhere. Finally, one important fact to remember is that Eid’l Fitr, as well as all the other major Muslim celebrations out there, don’t have fixed dates; rather, they move backwards for 10-11 days every single year due to the nature of the lunar calendar that is being used.
That’s Eid in the most basic sense: It’s a celebration of patience and endurance, as well as a time for loved ones to strengthen their ties and enjoy the beauty of life, at least for a little while.
In a world where everyone tends to be distrustful of the “Other,” I think that it is imperative for us to promote the richness of our traditions and promote a culture of multiculturalism. Otherwise, how will we live together in harmony in this interconnected global village? How will we start solving our problems if we do not even strive to understand the people around us?
This is why it is vital for us to learn and embrace the variety of cultures that we have in this country, and I think to understand what Eid is all about allows us to strengthen our collective identity as Filipinos.
Hoping that you enjoyed reading this modern guide to Eid!
About the Author
Earl Carlo Guevarra, 27 and a proud Zamboangueño, is a teacher of English based in the heart of Manila. When he’s not teaching children the fundamentals of grammar, he writes essays and poems, many of which have been published locally and internationally. He also loves fruit shakes and video games.
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