Eid al-Fitr: What you need to know

Kashmiri Muslims shop ahead of Eid al-Fitr in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir on July 5. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Story highlights

  • Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important holy days for Muslims
  • 1.6 billion Muslims will be celebrating around the world

(CNN)More than one billion Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Fitr on Wednesday night, as the month-long Ramadan fast ends and the festivities begin.

This year's Eid is fraught with pain as terrorist attacks across the Islamic world -- in Bangladesh, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- have left the Muslim community reeling in pain and disbelief.

    What is Eid al-Fitr?

    One of the most important days for Muslims, this is the "festival of breaking the fast."
    Families and friends gather to mark the end of Ramadan and show gratitude to Allah. Eid al-Fitr doesn't have any historical links; instead, the celebrations focus on the community and family, and a spirit of generosity is encouraged.
    Ramadan is a month-long fast, which marks the month Muslims believe their Holy Book, the Quran, was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
    During this time, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.
    Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam, requiring prayer five times a day and generally encouraging a more reflective behavior.

    When is Eid al-Fitr?

    Muslims gather to offer prayers at the central mosque in Moscow on July 5 during celebrations for Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
    Eid al-Fitr will start on Wednesday, July 6. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar -- meaning it's calculated by the phases of the moon -- Ramadan and Eid do not fall on the same date each year.
    The lunar calendar also means that Eid cannot start without a confirmed sighting of the new moon. Time-zones also impact when Eid starts.
    This year, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Indonesia and the Philippines have all officially announced Eid to start on Wednesday, July 6.
    Once Eid starts, the celebrations can last for up to three days in most countries.

    How to celebrate Eid?

    During the day, Muslims gather in large open spaces or mosques for special prayers, called Salat al-Eid, usually followed by a small breakfast, their first daytime meal in a month.
    Gifts are usually exchanged, and alms-giving is also a common practice. Another custom involves donning new clothes for the new day, which marks a spiritual renewal.
    Food is an important part of Eid al-Fitr, as feasting takes the place of fasting. After a month of the latter, delicacies and heavy foods will reign at the lavish dinners being prepared.