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Originally published Friday, August 17, 2012 at 5:28 PM

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A joyful conclusion of Ramadan, Muslims' 'season of joy'

A three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr begins at sunset on Saturday, marking the end of Ramadan for Muslims around the world.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Today at sunset, Muslims around the globe will bid farewell to the monthlong fast of Ramadan, ushering in a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

After a month of daily 18-hour fasts and self restraint to increase our spirituality, it should come as no surprise that the day immediately following Ramadan is filled with a joyful celebration focused on the community's shared feeling of spiritual achievement and contentment.

It doesn't matter which part of the world you may find yourself on Eid day; it's a unique time when prayer, affection, food and fun unite Muslims in a way that is unmatched.

My very first Eid in Seattle was almost 50 years ago when Muslims in the Puget Sound included just a couple of families and a few foreign students studying at the University of Washington.

That was our community's humble beginning. For years, our Eid prayers were held in a small meeting room at what was then called the University Methodist Church on the corner of 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 43rd Street, across from the UW campus.

Eid was in the winter back then, and some had to travel in harsh weather so we could pray together. We were still a small community, but our love for one another made the numbers seem immaterial.

The Eid prayer on Sunday falls in the heart of summer, and attendance will be so massive that local Muslims are gathering in a huge space — the Washington State Convention Center.

I wish all my fellow Americans could be there so they could experience this unique event — our joyful emotions expressed in warm hugs, endless smiles and a few kisses.

Everyone greets each other with "Eid Mubarak" — meaning "May your Eid be blessed." The event radiates sisterhood and brotherhood, so real the endless embraces are regardless of color, class or creed.

Muslim women are the visual manifestation of Eid's festive spirit. Their hands are adorned with decorative henna designs, wrists with shimmering bangles and their traditional dresses are bright and colorful.

Later at my family home, which will be decorated with colored lights, streamers and balloons, Eid will become a reunion of sorts with visiting relatives and friends. The holiday always brings out some special family desserts that are aromatic, spiced with saffron and cardamom, many soaked in fragrant orange blossom and rose water and sprinkled with green pistachios.

Eid is graduation day for everyone who fasted; our spirits are uplifted with humility and reverence. This extreme makeover becomes our badge of honor to share with everyone through actions and deeds.

But perhaps the greatest blessing for Muslims is knowing that by fasting the entire month for God alone, all of our past sins have been forgiven.

While this holy month has transformed my spirituality and given me a sense of renewal, I am always saddened at the end of Ramadan, aware this special time will not return for another year.

Over the next three days, I will relish this season of joy for Muslims.

If you have a Muslim friend, neighbor or co-worker, please share in their happiness by wishing them Eid Mubarak — May your Eid be blessed!

Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to faithcolumns@seattletimes.com

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