When Is Eid al-Fitr 2021 in America? Moon Sighting Latest as Ramadan End Nears

Eid al-Fitr in the U.S. begins on May 13 in 2021, advises the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and the Central Hilal Committee of North America (CHC).

Eid al-Fitr (also written as Eid ul-Fitr) is a festival that marks the breaking of the fasting period observed during Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims that began on April 12 this year. It also marks the start of the next lunar month known as Shawwal in Arabic.

The start date of Eid al-Fitr, which varies across the world each year, is "declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions," the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) explains.

The CHC advised: "The crescent moon to commence the month of Shawwal 1442 AH was looked for after the sunset of Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Reports from all sub Committees of CHC, both local and regional, unanimously confirmed that the moon was NOT SIGHTED.

"Thus, the Central Hilal Committee of North America has declared that the month of Ramadan 1442 AH will complete its 30 days, thus making Thursday, May 13, 2021, Eid-ul-Fitr (1 Shawwal 1442 AH)," the CHC said.

The FCNA determines the start date for lunar months, including Ramadan and Shawwal, using the criteria of European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), which states "that somewhere on the earth, at sunset, the elongation should be at least 8 degrees and [the] moon should be at least 5 degrees above [the] horizon."

It adds: "If these conditions are met, the new crescent will be visible somewhere on earth. Hence the new lunar month will start the next day, otherwise it will start on the day following next.

The council said the "first day of Shawwal is on Thursday, May 13, 2021, insha'Allah. Eid-ul-Fitr will be on Thursday May 13, 2021."

Eid al-Fitr celebrations

Eid al-Fitr can be celebrated for up to three days and traditions around it can vary. Most observers visit family, friends and neighbors during Eid al-Fitr and most gatherings and celebrations involve food.

"Many of the traditional foods consumed during Eid ul-Fitr are curry and stew based. These dishes, such as beef rendang, usually consist of pieces of meat and vegetables cooked in a broth or sauce," says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Before the festivities begin, "there are a number of important rituals that must first take place" as a symbol of thanksgiving, such as a charity donation and prayers, notes Muslim Aid, a U.K.-based NGO.

Before Eid al-Fitr prayers begin, a charity donation (known as Zakat ul-Fitr or Fitrana) must be made "as this is distributed amongst the neediest to ensure they can take part in Eid festivities," Muslim Aid says.

"Dawn prayers–also known as Fajr–are performed with your family before the 'ghusl' cleansing, which purifies the whole body. After the cleansing or ablution, the family prepares for the day, by wearing the finest clothes they own, or new clothes they have bought for the occasion.

"Families then head over to the local mosque to wish friends, family and the local community 'Eid Mubarak' which is the traditional Eid greeting," Muslim Aid explains.

Gift exchanges, particularly between young children and close family members, are also common practice during Eid al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr prayers in Brooklyn NYC 2015
Muslims taking part in a special morning prayer to start Eid al-Fitr celebrations in a field at the Prospect Park in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on July 17, 2015. This year Eid al-Fitr begins on May 13 in the U.S. Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images