08/17/2012 11:14 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2012

Celebrating Eid ul-Fitr In Our Own Way

By contributing writer Saim Alam. Originally published in KidSpirit's Rituals & Traditions issue.

Eid ul-Fitr means the celebration of the end of Ramadan. During Eid ul-Fitr we give donations to those in need in the community -- the donations are called Fitrana. The significance of this holiday is to celebrate the completion of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting, in which one eats before sun up and does not eat or drink again until sundown. This is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which make up the foundation of Muslim life. The pillars consist of the oneness of God, five daily prayers, giving to charity, making a pilgrimage to the holy land (Mecca) and fasting. Young children, elderly people, or people on medication should not fast because it will do them no good and only make them ill. God has made fasting a pillar to teach us humility and patience. I think that God orders Muslims to fast so they can get an idea of how a homeless or poor person is hungry on an everyday basis. This makes us more grateful for what we have. Eid is on the 13th or 31st day of Ramadan. That day is determined by the Islamic lunar calendar. Eid is celebrated on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal.

Our family and the Islamic community we live in celebrates Eid a bit differently, and it has become a tradition over the past 20 years in Asheville, N.C. Usually men go to the mosque to pray. After that, they go to their relatives' and close friends' houses. Our Eid party is normally held at a local open hall. We have a breakfast and lunch potluck, when everyone brings a dish from their own culture to share with others. The variety of cultures includes Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian, Arab and African, just to name a few. Everyone brings a different dish so that it can be a multicultural event. There are many activities for all the younger kids like giant inflatables as well as gifts for each child. The community members volunteer to purchase gifts and the entire community donates. It is full of laughter and fun. Sometimes there are competitions between men and women to see which side knows more about religious facts. Toward the end of the celebration the children get together and read verses from the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book.

I believe it is important for all Muslims to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr. It is a celebration of successfully fasting. This is a very important time not just for my family, but for every Muslim family throughout the world to celebrate and pray together. In Muslim countries Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated for three days and is an official government and school holiday. Our tradition is a slightly different way of celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, and hopefully will be carried on for a long time.

When he wrote this, Saim Alam was 11 years old and was in sixth grade at Odyssey Community School.