After breaking the 29th fast of Ramadan, it is not uncommon to see individuals or large groups of people gazing at the sky for a glimpse of the new moon that heralds the arrival of Eid. The eve is proclaimed Chaand Raat if Pakistan’s official moon-sighting body – the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee – declares that Eid should be celebrated based on their observations, sufficient reports from witnesses and confirmation from the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
Eid prayers are an intrinsic part of the festival, and the tradition of embracing fellow worshippers – whether kin, acquaintance or stranger – at the conclusion of the prayers is an important part of the celebrations. Socialising continues throughout the holidays, as Islam encourages visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts and distributing alms among the poor to keep the spirit of Eid alive.
Eid tables are traditionally heavily laden with both sweet and savoury items, with emphasis on the sweet! The pièce de résistance is Sheer Khurma, a dish consisting of vermicelli, milk, sugar and dried dates. If prepared from scratch, the dessert requires a lot of cooking to reach just the right level of thickness and sweetness. Sheer Khurma is the first item to be consumed at home after returning from Eid prayers.
Henna – or mehndi – is a reddish brown dye prepared from a tropical plant with the same name, and applied to the hands and feet as decorative body art. While it can be done at any time of year, henna artists do roaring business on Chaand Raat, as the practice has long been associated with women dolling up for Eid.
Eid outfits carry special significance. Shopping for the occasion usually starts around the beginning of Ramadan and peaks in the last week, with brands and street markets churning out collections designed around the theme of the festivities.
With Eid approaching, being a tailor is perhaps the most profitable and stressful job. The sheer volume of clothes piled up in a tailor’s shop leads to sleepless nights, long hours at the machines and the need to hire extra labour just for this occasion. If not opting for ready-to-wear, the smart way to ensure that an Eid outfit is ready and to your liking before the big day is to give your clothes for sewing well ahead of time – ideally at the start of Ramadan or even earlier.
Traditional bangles (chooriyan) have adorned the wrists of women in the sub-continent for centuries. The wearing of these on an everyday basis is on the decline in Pakistan, but come Eid, the markets are flooded with stalls groaning under the weight of glittering glass and metallic bangles, in all colours imaginable. Dressing up on Eid would be incomplete without bangles.
For children, the most anticipated part of Eid is receiving Eidi from their elders. Adults can usually be seen visiting banks in the last week of Ramadan to acquire fresh notes, which are then put in envelopes and distributed among the younger members of the family. The recipients then compare notes on who got how much Eidi, and what the ‘earnings’ will be spent on.
Homes, shops, restaurants, landmarks and mosques are all lit up and tastefully decorated for the holiday. Once everyone is done with socialising and eating to their heart’s content on Eid, it is customary to take a stroll or a drive down the road or through the city, just to revel in the lit-up ambience.
Eid al-Fitr 2018 in Pakistan will start in the evening of Thursday, 14 June, 2018.
Eid al-Fitr 2018 in Pakistan will begin in the evening of Sunday, 17 June, 2018.