Eid-ul Fitr (‘Festival to break the fast’) is the first of the two Eid’s in Islam. It is a very significant celebration both religiously and culturally. It marks the end of Ramadan a holy month in which we fast from dawn to sunset for twenty-nine or thirty days depending on the sighting of the crescent moon. My earliest memories of the Eid-ul Fitr celebrations are with my family back in Ghana. I am around the age of 10 years, Eid day is marked as a bank holiday just like Christmas day, hence we don’t go to school and the family and friends get to spend time with each other.

During Ramadan, we Muslims spend most of our time praying to Allah for forgiveness and His blessings in the coming year, more so in the last ten days of Ramadan marked to hold more blessings. As a kid, I remember emulating my parents and older siblings to the best of my abilities. However, I looked forward to the new clothes and the hairdo that my parents organised for us in preparation for the Eid celebration. This tradition is something I still hold even in the UK.

At the Eid prayer family and friends gather to perform salaat (prayers) in the morning of the Eid day. This usually takes place in large spaces with about 200 to 1000 people depending on the community. I remember what stood out for me most as a child was spending time with other kids, getting gifts from families and friends, taking pictures and going back home after the prayers to eat a special meal, usually, rice and chicken stew. This is prepared with a special recipe different from the usual and portions are served larger than usual. I guess this is fitting after fasting for 30 days. The special meal is shared with neighbours and work colleagues promoting a sense of sharing and communal connection.

A collage showing Raihana Mohammed wearing a dress among a crowd in Castle Park; and food, drinks, and flowers on a beautifully laid table.

In the afternoon the Eid celebration continued with us attending a carnival where Chiefs and their entourage from different districts sit on horses and caravans to display their cultural heritage with beautiful colourful clothing and traditional armours and artefacts. This is unique to the Ghanaian culture, nevertheless, my experience in the UK is not different. Families and friends come in beautiful traditional clothing for the Eid prayer which usually takes place at the sports centre on campus and Castle Park with a larger community. It is beautiful and nostalgic when family and friends gather at the end of the Eid prayers taking pictures, sharing gifts and catching up with people you have not seen in a long while. The sense of community is rekindled on Eid day.

A very significant element of the Eid celebration is to be charitable to the poor and needy. This is emulated with the giving away of ‘Zakat ul Fitr’, a charitable donation of the cost of one meal to be given before Eid prayer. This is compulsory for every self-supporting adult Muslim and their household. In the UK, we donate approximately £5 for each member of the household, usually three days before Eid. Giving this charity before the Eid prayer ensures the poor and needy can get the donations in time to celebrate Eid with the community.

Upon reflection, I note that my perception and experience of Eid have not evolved much throughout the years. Though I stopped attending the carnivals as I grew up, the other traditions I am familiar with still hold. Getting new clothes, having the hair done and looking forward to spending time with the community and eating special meals. Despite being in the UK without my family, I find myself making new connections and reconnecting with friends I have lost touch with during the Eid celebration.

The sense of the community coming together on this special day remains.