SALT LAKE CITY — On a humid July morning in Salt Lake City, a woman sitting under a canopy remarked that the weather was similar to what it would have been in Pakistan.
This perception was perhaps aided by the Pakistani food being served to those gathered in the backyard of the Salt Lake home.
The woman was one of roughly 70 guests who had gathered at the home by noon Monday to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and cleansing for Muslims.
Men and women in their newest tunics and saris called out from cars to those walking on the sidewalk as a horse-drawn carriage ambled by. A handful of children stood under a canopy, waiting for their turn to have their faces painted.
Some of the guests did not know the Nisar family, who hosted the event, but they'd heard of the celebration through word of mouth. The family's main goal in hosting was to bring people together.
"I don't care who it is. Tell (them) it's open house. We want everyone to come and eat," said Mona Nisar, who hosted the Eid al-Fitr breakfast with her husband, Rana.
Depending on who you ask, Eid al-Fitr either began Monday or Tuesday. The holy month is measured according to the Islamic lunar calendar and the sighting of the crescent moon. Some prefer to begin Eid celebrations when the moon appears anywhere in the world, while others will wait until they can confirm that the moon has appeared in their area.
There are about 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, with nearly 3.5 million living in the United States, according to the December 2012 Global Religious Landscape report by Pew Research Center's Forum.
"Fasting is very important. It sensitizes me to the needs of the poor, on the one hand. On the other hand, through hunger and a little bit of challenge, you begin to appreciate your creator … more."
During Ramadan, adherents fast from sunrise to sunset each day and work on being more kind toward others and aware of those in need.
“Fasting is very important. It sensitizes me to the needs of the poor, on the one hand. On the other hand, through hunger and a little bit of challenge, you begin to appreciate your creator … more," said Imam Muhammed Shoayb Mehtar, of the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City.
This awareness is especially poignant at a time when millions of Muslims across the world are affected by conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, the Central African Republic and the Philippines, according to the Associated Press. Many in these countries were unable to celebrate, focusing their energies on survival rather than Ramadan.
"You become sensitive to the needs of what others are going through" during the holy month, Imam Mehtar said.
The Utah Islamic Center in Sandy held their Eid prayers Monday at the Classic Fun Center with a celebration afterward. The Khadeeja in West Valley was open Monday for Eid prayers of those who chose to celebrate, but their official Eid prayers were planned for Tuesday.
For Sunny Nisar and his family, the timing of the celebration did not matter as much as the unity that would result.
"We tell everyone to tell everyone," he said.
After breaking their fast Sunday evening, the Nisar family — owners of Salt Lake restaurants Curry in a Hurry and Curry Fried Chicken — spent from midnight to 4 a.m. setting up and cooking for their Eid al-Fitr breakfast before heading to morning prayers at 4:30 a.m.
Guests loaded up on sweets, along with potato, chicken and chickpea dishes. Some had henna drawings on their hands and arms, and most were dressed in new clothes and had applied perfume before the celebration as part of Eid al-Fitr.
The feast is only part of the Eid celebration for those who can afford it, Imam Mehtar explained. Some people do not have enough money for this luxury, however. For all, the month marks a time for Muslims to be charitable and to be aware of those who are poor.
Those who can should enjoy the day as best they can, he said. For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is similar to Christians' Christmas traditions where families eat good food, get new things and are especially mindful of the less fortunate.
It is also a celebration for non-Muslims, according to Mona Nisar, whose family invited friends, neighbors and strangers.
"My mailman, he waits for this day," she said.
Contributing: Mike Anderson