This Arab American soldier is praying during an Eid al-Fitr ceremony. Eid al-Fitr is a feast at the end of Ramadan, an Islamic religious holiday that occurs during Arab American Heritage Month this year.

April is Arab American Heritage Month. Arab Americans are Americans who came to the United States from Arab nations or are descendants of Arab immigrants. A group of 22 countries stretching from North Africa to Southwest Asia make up the Arab world. The religion of Islam was founded in this part of the world.

About 25% of Arab Americans are Muslim, or people who practice Islam. Many other Americans are also Muslim. This year, the Islamic holiday of Ramadan occurs between April 1 and May 1. Let’s look at what Ramadan is and how it is celebrated.

Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month. Because Islam follows a different calendar from the West, it happens at different times during different years. Muslims believe during this month, the prophet Muhammad received the revelations of the Quran. This is Islam’s holy text.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast. This means they do not eat or drink during the daytime. Before dawn they eat a meal known as suhur. After sunset, they eat an evening meal known as iftar. During the day, Muslims focus on studying the Quran and performing acts of charity.

When Ramadan ends, the fasting ends with a three-day feastcalled Eid al-Fitr. It is a time for celebration, extra prayers, baking special pastries, and exchanging gifts.

What Do You Think? What cultural or religious traditions does your family celebrate?

Photo Credit: Photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard/DVIDS