11 Things You Might Not Know About Eid Al-Fitr

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iStock

At the end of June this year, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a festival that marks the end of Ramadan. Here's what you need to know about the holiday celebrated by over 1 billion Muslims.

1. IT'S HELD TO CELEBRATE THE END OF FASTING.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun up to sundown to honor the month that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of the month—and the end of the fasting. The prolonged fasting isn't just about food—it also includes abstaining from taking medications, drinking any liquids (including water), smoking, and having sex.

2. THE NAME OF THE HOLIDAY IS A LITERAL TRANSLATION.

"Eid al-Fitr" is a pretty literal translation of the event that's being celebrated: "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast," or "the Feast of Fast-Breaking."

3. EID AL-FITR BEGINS WHEN THE NEW MOON IS FIRST SIGHTED.

Eid al-Fitr doesn't begin until the new moon appears in the sky (although traditionally, and still today for many Muslims, it doesn't begin until the barest sliver of a waxing crescent moon is seen). Technically, that means that across the world, Eid al-Fitr starts at different times and even different days, depending on location. To make it more uniform, some Muslims celebrate Eid when the new moon appears over Mecca instead of their own locations.

4. RAMADAN AND EID AL-FITR ARE HELD ON DIFFERENT GREGORIAN DATES EVERY YEAR.

The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar cycle. New months start and end with each new moon. The average new moon appears every 29.53 days, so the lunar months are a bit shorter compared to the Gregorian months, which usually last 30 or 31 days. Thus, every year, Ramadan is held about 10 days earlier than it was the previous year—at least, that is, in relation to the Gregorian calendar.

5. EID AL-FITR TYPICALLY LASTS FOR THREE DAYS.

The festival traditionally lasts for three days, but depending on how it falls on the calendar, the parties and festivities could last much longer. For example, if the three days fall mid-week, Muslims will likely still be celebrating over the weekend.

6. ON EID MORNING, MUSLIMS CLEANSE THEIR BODIES AND DON NEW CLOTHES.

A Pakistani beautician applies henna on a customer's hand at a beauty salon in Karachi ahead of the forthcoming Eid al-Fitr festival.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Before leaving to perform morning prayers, Muslims wake up to cleanse their bodies in a ritual called "ghusl." Then, similar to getting new clothes for Easter Sunday, Muslims often don something new or grab their finest threads and decorate their hands with elaborate henna patterns. Some people wear traditional dress, while others opt for contemporary clothing.

7. THERE ARE EID GREETINGS.

"Eid Mubarak," which means "Have a blessed Eid!," is pretty common.

8. THEN THERE ARE PRAYERS.

After getting dressed and ready for the day, Muslims gather for prayers in mosques or outdoor locations. Afterward, they may visit the graves of loved ones to pray and clean the gravesites.

9. THERE ARE GIFTS INVOLVED.

After a month of sacrifice, Eid al-Fitr is a time of abundance—and not just abundant food. Gifts are often given, especially to children. These gifts of money, accessories, home goods, or flower are called "Eidi."

10. IT'S ALSO KNOWN AS "THE LESSER EID."

Eid al-Fitr is one of two important Eid celebrations in the Muslim faith. The other is Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice or "Greater Eid." Eid al-Adha celebrates the sacrifice Ibrahim (Abraham) was willing to make to Allah. Like Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha is held at a different time on the Gregorian calendar every year.

11. THE WHITE HOUSE HELD ITS FIRST EID AL-FITR DINNER IN 1996.

Though the first iftar dinner—the daily meal that Muslims break their fast with when the sun sets during Ramadan—hosted by the White House happened in 1805 when President Thomas Jefferson held one for the visiting Tunisian envoy, First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted the first official Eid al-Fitr dinner in 1996, and the Clintons continued the tradition every year after. The tradition of hosting Ramadan or Eid dinners has continued with every president since—George W. Bush hosted one every year, and Barack Obama hosted his last one in July 2016.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer

Amazon
Amazon

If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

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How the Doughnut Became a Symbol of Volunteerism During World War I

National WWI Museum and Memorial
National WWI Museum and Memorial

If you’ve ever eaten a free doughnut on the first Friday in June, you’ve celebrated the Doughnut Lassies—whether you realized it or not. National Doughnut Day was established to honor the Salvation Army volunteers who fried sugary snacks for World War I soldiers on the front lines. Some Doughnut Lassies were even willing to risk their lives to provide that momentary morale boost. One story from The War Romance Of The Salvation Army (written by Evangeline Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army’s founders) describes a volunteer serving doughnuts and cocoa to a troop under heavy fire. When she was told by the regiment colonel to turn back, she responded, “Colonel, we can die with the men, but we cannot leave them.”

Frying on the Front Lines

The decision to serve doughnuts on the battlefield was partly a practical one. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the Salvation Army, a Christian charity organization, sent roughly 250 “salvationists” (who were mostly women) to France, where American troops were stationed. The plan was to bring treats and supplies as close to the front lines as possible. But the closer the volunteers got to the action, the fewer resources they could access.

“It was difficult creating the pies and cakes and other baked goods they thought they might be making,” Lora Vogt, curator of education at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, tells Mental Floss. “Instead, they realized the doughnut was a very efficient use of both the time and the ingredient resources. And you could make thousands of doughnuts in a day to feed all the men serving.”


Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance are credited with bringing doughnuts to the Western Front. They had a handful of ingredients at their disposal, including flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, and canned milk. Doughnuts were one of the few confections they could make without an oven, and once they had a fire hot enough to heat the oil, they could fry them up fast. The women had the pan to cook them in, but for other parts of the recipe, they had to get creative. In a pinch, grape juice bottles and shell casings became rolling pins; an empty baking powder can became a doughnut cutter; and a tube that had come loose from a coffeemaker punched the holes.

Sheldon and Purviance's pan could fit seven doughnuts at a time, and on day one, they made just 150 doughnuts for the outfit of 800 men. Those who were lucky enough to grab a morsel were smitten, with one exclaiming “Gee! If this is war, let it continue!” according to The War Romance Of The Salvation Army. The salvationists fine-tuned their operation, and were eventually making 5000 doughnuts a day. The snacks were so beloved, the volunteers earned the nickname Doughnut Lassies, while the soldiers they served were dubbed Doughboys.

The All-American Doughnut

The Doughnut Lassies’s impact didn’t end with World War I. Prior to the war, Americans hadn’t fully embraced the doughnut. Dutch immigrants enjoyed doughnuts in the country for decades, but they weren’t considered an integrated part of American cuisine. It was the U.S. soldiers’s experience with doughnuts overseas that popularized them back home. “You have millions who are serving on the front lines who then have a really lovely association with the doughnut who may not have had one before,” Vogt says.


World War I also contributed to doughnuts' popularity in a less direct way. The dessert appealed to U.S. bakers during wartime for the same reason the salvationists chose it: Recipes were adaptable and didn’t call for a ton of hard-to-source ingredients. “Crisco was putting out recipes for wartime doughnuts, and they suggested using Crisco as an alternative to lard because lard should be saved," Vogt says. "So you have this movement both on the front line and on the home front that let all Americans realize how delicious doughnuts could be.”

The Rise of National Doughnut Day

In 1938, the Salvation Army took advantage of its unofficial, sugary symbol and established National Doughnut Day to raise awareness of its charity work. Today, brands like Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme use the holiday as a marketing opportunity, but according to Vogt, the day is meant to be more about the Lassies’s service than the doughnuts they served. “National Doughnut Day is actually not about the doughnut. It is all about the Salvation Army volunteerism,” she says. “That concept of service and being able to share and build your community is part of what doughnut day is about.”

National Doughnut Day isn’t the only day dedicated to the treat in the U.S. A second National Doughnut Day falls on November 5, but the origins of that holiday aren’t as clear. If you want to enjoy some fried dough while commemorating a lesser-known part of World War I history, the first Friday in June—June 5, in 2020—is the day to remember.