The Meaning and Traditions of Ramadan
The holy month of Ramadan begins in the evening of Monday, April 12, 2021. Learn about how—and why—Ramadan is observed.
What Is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is considered a holy month that honors the time when Allah, via the angel Gabriel, revealed the first verses of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, to a caravan trader named Muhammad.
When Is Ramadan?
This year, Ramadan is expected to begin at sundown on Monday, April 12, and end at sundown on Wednesday, May 12. The final evening of Ramadan consists of a celebration called Eid al-Fitr, when the traditional month-long fast is ended with a feast.
The exact beginning and ending times of Ramadan are based on the sighting of the Moon. Specifically, Ramadan is said to begin at the first observance of the new Moon over Mecca, Saudi Arabia (or on a date pre-determined by astronomical calculation). Because of this, start and end dates are not set in stone and may vary by a day.
The dates listed below are based on expected visibility, so may differ slightly from those seen elsewhere.
|Year||First Evening of Ramadan (fasting begins at dawn next day)||Final Evening of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr)|
|2021||Monday, April 12||Wednesday, May 12|
|2022||Saturday, April 2||Sunday, May 1|
|2023||Wednesday, March 22||Thursday, April 20|
|2024||Sunday, March 10||Monday, April 8|
(Dates are according to the United States Naval Observatory and reflect North American regions.)
Traditions of Ramadan
Beginning at puberty, all Muslims (with certain exceptions, such as if one is ill, traveling, pregnant, elderly, etc.) take part in the month-long dawn-to-sunset fast that is the hallmark of Ramadan. Muslims believe that fasting cleanses the body, and the practice reminds them of the suffering of the poor.
Eating and drinking (including water) is prohibited from dawn to sunset, and the day’s abstinence is offset by a pre-dawn meal called sehri and a nightly meal known as iftar. For iftar, many traditionally break the fast by first eating dates, as the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have done to break his fast. Foods traditionally served at iftar vary; one such dish is the Kurdish Hot-and-Spicy Red-Lentil Soup. Food is often shared with a poor family during Ramadan.
At the end of the 29- or 30-day fast (depending on the length of the lunar cycle) is Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast), when there is much feasting and celebration!
Share Your Traditions!
If you observe Ramadan, please share your traditions below!