My son asked me the other day about the holidays celebrated by Muslims. I did some research on the actual meanings and here is what I came up with. (Please note: I only looked into holidays celebrated by Sunni Muslims. There is a couple more celebrated by Shites.)
The Islamic New Year (1 Muharram)
The month of Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year. The Islamic Year starts on the first day of Muharram. The first Islamic year came the year of the Hegira (the Islamic Calendar) – the year in which our Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) emigrated from Mecca to Medina which is A.D. July 16, 622 on the Roman Calendar. The Islamic New Year is a relatively quiet holiday where Muslims reflect with prayers and readings.
Birth of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) - Mawlid Al-Nabi
Our Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) was on 12th day of the month of Rabi I of the Islamic calendar. We celebrate this day with recollections of Muhammad’s (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) life and significance. Fundamentalist Muslims (and probably Shites, as well) do not celebrate this holiday.
Eid Al-Fitr – The Festival of the Breaking of the Fast
Ramadan ends with festival of Eid Al-Fitr and the holiday lands on the 1st of Shawwal of the Islamic year. Eid Al-Fitr is one of the two most important holidays for Muslims; the other is Eid Al-Adha. Eid Al-Fitr celebrations include wearing the finest clothes, adorning homes with decorations, giving treats to children and celebrating with family and friends. A sense of generosity and gratitude centers on celebrations. Charity and good deeds are an important part of Islam, but during Ramadan, and especially towards the end, they hold a greater significance. As month draws to an end, Muslims are required to share their blessings and feed the poor and making contributions to mosques.
Eid Al-Adha – The Feast of Sacrifice
Eid Al-Adha lands on the 10th day of the month of Dhu’l Hijjah which is the last month of the Islamic calendar and it celebrates the conclusion of Hajj for the Islamic year. Moreover, the holiday is a time of remembrance and honor towards our Prophet Abraham’s (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) willingness to obey Allah by nearly sacrificing his son Ishmael. According to our Holy Quran, just as Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael, Allah replaced Ishmael with a ram, and spared Ishmael’s life. The holiday lasts for three days, and occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. The Hajj is for most Muslims a once-a-life time occurrence. The holiday is celebrated by sacrificing a lamb or other animal and distributing the meat to family, friends and the poor. The sacrifice is a symbol of obedience to Allah and its distribution symbolizes generosity and charity, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Source: “Islamic Holidays (Ramadan, Muharram, Mawlid Al-Nabi, and more).” Infoplease. ©2000-2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 18 Sep. 2009. < http://www.infoplease.com/spot/islamicholidays.html>.