Part 1: What is Ramadan/Eid
Eid al-Fitr (“festival of breaking the fast”) is a major Muslim holiday that occurs at the end of the month of Ramadan, which, this year, was from April 2 to May 1. During Ramadan, Muslims fast (no eating food or drinking any liquid) every day from sunrise to sunset. Translated from Arabic, Eid literally means “festival” or “feast.” On Eid, people wish each other “Eid Mubarak,” or “Blessed Eid.”
When I explain Ramadan to people who aren’t Muslim, I’m often met with incredulity and disbelief—while the general idea of fasting for 30 days from sunrise to sunset is simple, it’s often hard for people to grasp what that looks like in practice.
Before sunrise (when the fast starts), most Muslims wake up (usually around 4am) and eat a meal known as suhoor. This meal can consist of anything—for me, it’s mostly breakfast-type foods as well as any leftovers I can find in the fridge. The goal is to make sure your body has enough energy to make it through a day of normal activities while fasting, so I always drink plenty of water (at least 5–6 glasses) in addition to the food I eat. After suhoor, Muslims go back to sleep on full stomachs, ready for a day of fasting.
During the day, Muslims do everything they normally would, besides eating and drinking. Whether it’s school, sports practice (fun fact: there are multiple Muslim NBA players who fast while playing games and training), hanging out with friends, or anything else, fasting doesn’t mean that Muslims need to make major changes in their lives during the day.
At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a meal called iftar (“breakfast”). Iftar traditionally begins with eating dates and is a relatively small meal followed by a larger dinner. Then, everything repeats the next day!
In addition to the spiritual symbolism of Ramadan, the act of fasting is a mental and physical challenge that reminds Muslims of the less fortunate and emphasizes the need for gratitude. Ramadan is also a month of charity and good deeds—Muslims are encouraged to be extra kind, generous, and compassionate.
After a month of fasting, Eid is the culminating celebration (this year, Eid was on May 2). During Eid celebrations, friends and family come together for elaborate meals, parties, and exchange gifts.
Part 2: What it means to me/personal stories
Ramadan and Eid have always been extremely special to my family and me. When I was growing up in New York City, one of our Eid traditions was to skip school in the morning to attend the Eid prayer at the mosque with friends before getting pancakes from a diner down the block. To me, Eid is a day where I get to both reconnect with old friends and reinforce my relationships with family—calling my grandparents in Pakistan to wish them “Eid Mubarak” is one of my favorite parts of the day.
The month of Ramadan is always a reminder of how privileged I am, both in general and within the Muslim community. My friends in Pakistan—many of whom haven’t missed a single day of fasting in years—take exams in rooms without air conditioning, have sports practice in 100+ degree heat, and cook for their non-fasting grandparents while fasting. In Karachi, Pakistan, where my grandparents and friends live, the heat often causes power outages and water shortages during Ramadan, making it even more difficult to fast for the whole month.
This year, Ramadan was more meaningful than usual for me and my family. After two years of being closed due to COVID, South Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants around the Bay Area reopened, hosting special Ramadan events for the Muslim community. These included iftars for people to break their fast together and suhoor nights, where restaurants stayed open until 3 a.m. so Muslims could eat before beginning their fast at sunrise.
The restaurant events were the highlights of my Ramadan—one night, my family went to Zareen’s (our favorite local Pakistani restaurant) for an early-morning suhoor meal. At the restaurant, I bumped into old friends I hadn’t seen in years, chatting with them as we stuffed ourselves before the break of dawn. I believe the shared experience of fasting is what makes Ramadan so special—it creates a sense of connection between all Muslims for the entire month.
At Nueva, we were able to have an in-person celebration on Eid this year. The kitchen staff served butter chicken and samosas for lunch, and the Muslim Student Association handed out Eid cookies and bags of gold coins to symbolize Eidi (the gifts of money children receive on Eid). I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share the Eid holiday with the Nueva community, and I hope this celebration becomes an annual tradition at school.