ISLAMABAD: `Eid al-Fitr in Pakistan is known as chhoti (small) or meethi (sweet) `Eid as unlike three days celebrations for Eid ul Azha, it is celebrated for one day and that is the day the `Eid begins with a special-made breakfast consisting Vermicelli.

`Eid preparations start with the beginning of the month of Ramadan and continue throughout the month. It is customary for almost everyone to wear new dress. So the shopping goes on throughout the month of Ramadan.

The marketplaces are decorated to welcome `Eid shoppers. Special sale prices are offered on garments and shoes. Young girls and older women wear bangles made of fine glass. The night when the moon is sighted is fixed for this activity. Womenfolk in huge numbers throng the special bangle stalls and shops as soon as the Shawwal moon is sighted. Men and elders usually exchange moon greetings. Telephone these days are frequently used for this late evening exchange of greetings.

The next day is `Eid, a public holiday, and a great occasion for rejoicing. Rising early, the rich as well as the poor wash, dress up in new clothes, and start the day with a light breakfast which usually consists of fine wheat noodles mixed with milk and commonly known as Vermicelli. 

Then the men congregate at the mosques or eidgahs (large enclosures for prayers). On the way they pass out the obligatory alms called fitra. When `Eid prayers and Thanksgivings are over, they hug and congratulate each other and later during the day, they visit relatives, friends, and neighbors.

The poor also join in the celebration because it is during Ramadan that Muslims give Zakah, which is a 2 and 1/2 percent payment on one year’s savings or gold, silver currency, or goods for trade equal in price to 87.48 grams of gold or 612.36 grams of silver. Tens of millions are distributed in cash or kind among poor who also share in the festivities.

After offering `Eid prayers, which is an occasion for expressing thanks to Allah, the men return home and wishing children, women and elders of the household `Eid Mubarak eat the sweet dish known as Vermicelli or sheer-khurma (dates cooked in milk and served with wheat noodles). Also as an additional treat, a variety of dishes are cooked. Festivities continue till late night, and in some towns a popular fair or mela is held for recreational purpose.

For the children it is a very happy day because they receive money from all the elders, to spend and enjoy themselves. They also can receive clothes or gifts. It is like Christmas. Employees get bonuses, factories and offices close down for a couple of days, and food and money are distributed to the poor. Because it marks the end of Ramadan, `Eid al-Fitr is always an occasion for a big meal, and families come together like Thanksgiving.

By Asif Farooqi