Eid al-Fitr, or “Festival of Breaking the Fast” is happening tomorrow. There are more than one billion Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Fitr this week. The celebrations mark when Muslim communities come together to celebrate the end of holy month of Ramadan.
The eid celebrates the conclusion of 29, or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting. The day of Eid falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal.
The date for the start of any lunar-based-month variels based on the new moon is sighted by local religious authorities. Therefore, the exact day of celebration varies bases on locality.
What happens during the Eid
Eid in Arabic means party. Family and friends gather to show their gratitude to Allah while celebrating the completion of the holy month. Eid al-Fitr doesn’t have any historical links, instead, the celebrations focus on the community and family. The spirit of generosity is encouraged. During this day, Mulsim give Zakat al-Fitr, or money, to the poor.
How the Eid al-Fitr is celebrated
During the day, Muslims gather in large open or closed spaces, or mosques for special prayers, called Salat al-Fitr. The salat is usually followed with a small breakfast, first meal in daytime after a month.
There are certain activities that take place during the day, in which all of them relates to celebrating the day. One of the common activities is henna tatoo.
About a year ago, Erin Luhmann filed a story for us about a henna tatoo that she observed with one of her friends in Minnesota. Here is the story of her experience in one of the tatoo parlors in the Midwest.
Henna Tatoo during the Eid
At Suuqa Karmel, a vibrant Somali mall located in Minneapolis, I trailed in the shadow of a Somali friend who knew how to navigate the crowded hallways.
The first henna parlor we poked our heads into was filled with female clients, waiting to get henna tattoos for upcoming Eid al-Fitr celebration and other special occasions. So we migrated to another parlor, where we found an open sofa.
Here, henna artist Mulki Muusa greeted us, and offered to induct me into a parallel beauty world where the tattoos are temporary, the artistic vision is impromptu, and the body art is largely displayed in non-public spaces.
Having little interest in getting a permanent tattoo, I felt I had found a compromise I could enjoy. So I extended my right hand and soaked in as much information about henna as I could, while Mussa jumped from me to every other customer that cycled through that afternoon.
Every woman I met in Mussas henna parlor expressed that they held a strong culturally affinity to henna. It’s a cosmetic tradition that some remember practicing in Somalia and Kenya, where some lived in refugee camps before migrating to the U.S.
The feel of henna paste drying up and cracking on the skin, combined with its earthy smell, and the camaraderie of sitting in the parlor struck up feelings of cultural pride and nostalgia among the women.
Considering the fact that more than 22,000 Somalis now live in Minnesota, local henna parlors have established themselves as vibrant social hubs. When Muslim holidays like Eid al-Fitr take place, there’s no rest for the henna artists.
My 14-year-old interpreter, Hodan Dalmar, coached me through the henna tattoo process, telling me to have more patience while it dried, then demonstrating how to peel the outer layer off once it had finished setting. Afterward, we grabbed a cup of sweet Somali tea and a deep fried pastry before heading home.
I left infatuated with the intricacy of each henna tattoo I’d photographed and appreciative of the access that this artistic expression granted me into another culture.