Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Islamic month of fasting. Muslims call the fasting 'Sawm' or 'Siyam'.
Muslims participating in the Ramadan refrain from drinking, eating and sexual activities from dawn until sunset. Also lying, cursing and slander are not allowed. Ramadan is a time of reflecting , believing and worshiping.
There is an exception for sick people, pregnant women, soldiers in wartime, women during menstruation, young children and others for whom fasting is a threat to their health. These people don't have to fast, although, for whom it is possible, catching up is encouraged.
The Islam uses the lunar calendar, so the Ramadan starts every time in a different month of the year. This means that sometimes the ninth month is during summer, but also sometimes in winter. During summer, the days (especially in the Middle East) can be long and hot.
Many Muslims greet each other just before and during Ramadan with 'Ramadan Mubarak', 'Ramadan Karim' or 'Ramadan Mabrouk' which means 'blessed Ramadan'.
The Fasting month
The most prominent event of the month is fasting. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islam. Fasting is a way for Muslims to bring them closer to their natural condition and is an opportunity to develop characteristics such as tenacity and self development. They are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam.
After sunset, families and friends visit each other to eat well, especially since they didn't have anything in their stomach the whole day. Banquets are served and sweet pastries, lots of fruit, the typical Ramadan soup harira and other food are eaten. Consuming the meal can take several hours. Some people eat extensively, which is criticized by some persons because they feel that Ramadan should be a period of fasting, abstinence and reflection.
There is a debate among Muslims on how to calculate the beginning of the Ramadan month. The traditional method is mentioned in the Qur'an and was followed by the Prophet Muhammad. You should look to the sky and visibly sight the slight crescent moon, hilal, which marks the beginning of the month. If one sees the hilal at night, the next day is the first day of Ramadan.
Nowadays most Muslims follow the start of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, because of the location of Mecca in this country. It however happens that Muslims in some areas of the world start a day later with Ramadan and also end their fasting period a day later.
Ramadan starts the next years on the following dates:
2010: 11 August
2011: 1 August
2012: 20 July
2013: 9 July
2014: 28 June
2015: 18 June
The Eid ul-Fitr celebration is at the end of the month of Ramadan. Eid ul-Fitr begins when the new moon is showing and lasts for three days (or more, depending on the country). On the morning of the first day of the tenth month, Sjawwal, Muslims wake up early, take a shower and wear clean, if possible, new clothes. Like this, they show in a festive way that they fasted for a month.
After sunrise, something is eaten, indicating that fasting really is over. Then go to a mosque or open areas to the Takbir and Subh prayer and this event really closes the Ramadan. Women and children are also present in most cases. After the prayer people wish each other a blessed feast.
The rest of the day Muslims spent their time visiting relatives, acquaintances and friends and during those visits lots of sweets are eaten and gifts are exchanged. In some Islamic countries you can find on this day sweets stalls on the street.
Everyone tries to be nice to other people, and continue their lives with a clear conscience and good intentions.
Eid ul-Fitr starts the next years on the following dates:
2010: 10 September
2011: 31 August
2012: 19 August
2013: 9 August
2014: 29 July
2015: 18 July