On May 2 U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted a reception in the East Room—the largest State Room of the White House—to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The guest list included members of Congress, Grammy award-winning Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab and Dr. Talib M. Shareef, Imam of Masjid Muhammad (The Nation’s Mosque).
The reception, a tradition in the White House which began in 1996 when it was hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton, has carried on with every administration since.
As far back as December 1805, during the First Barbary War, Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd U.S. President, hosted an iftar at the White House for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, envoy of Beylik of Tunis. Jefferson adjusted the timing of the meal to be after sunset to accommodate Ramadan needs.
In their Eid al-Fitr statement, the Bidens spoke of the plight of displaced Muslims. There are more than 10 million Muslim refugees and millions more who are displaced within their own countries. The President and First Lady said “we hold in our hearts the millions of displaced persons and refugees around the globe who are spending this sacred holiday separated from their families and unsure of their future, but still hoping for a brighter tomorrow.” And they affirmed that the U.S. will “always keep faith with those seeking a better life, and uphold our commitment to serving as a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world.”
Eid al-Fitr, which means “Holiday of Breaking the Fast,” is a celebration which follows the end of Ramadan and is one of two officially celebrated holidays within Islam, the other being Eid al-Adha. The celebration begins with the Eid prayer and is followed by many activities with family and friends, presents for children, and special foods for the occasion.
The traditional Islamic greeting for Eid al-Fitr is “Eid Mubarak,” meaning “blessed festival.”