This weekend, Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Fast-Breaking, marking an end to the holy month of Ramadan.
For the 30 days of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day – refraining from food, drink, and sex.
Of course, July days last longer at high latitudes than low ones. In Chile, currently in the middle of winter, the time from dawn to sunset is less than 10 hours. In Iceland, it’s 22 hours.
In such instances, most scholars encourage Muslims to follow the more reasonable times of another country, The Guardian reports.
On average, Muslims around the world have fasted for about 16 hours per day for the past month.
The primary reason Muslims fast is to attain spiritual healing, improve self-restraint, and forge a deeper connection with God, explain Islamic scholars.
Some non-Muslims have also attempted to fast, as an act of solidarity.
Jeff Cook, a Christian pastor from Greeley Colo., told the Wall Street Journal that he is fasting this Ramadan to "better understand and support Muslims."
"I want to remind myself and my culture that we can have a different posture in our hearts toward those who embrace Islam," he said recently.
According to the Journal, most fasting Christians are supported by their families and church members, but some are criticized by those "who wonder how they can claim to follow Christ while adhering to an Islamic ritual."
Anthony Manousos, a Quaker from Pasadena, Calif., told the Journal that his wife, an evangelical Christian, "had a little trouble" with his fasting during Ramadan. "But once she understood I was doing it to be a better Christian, she thought that was nice," he said. His decision to fast was "inspired by the simple Christian command to love thy neighbor and love thy enemy," he said.
Cook was moved to participate in the Ramadan fast after some Muslim Americans participated in Lent earlier this year, an initiative that started on social media with #Muslims4Lent. He tweeted his own fasting with #Christians4Ramadan.
But in some countries, Muslims have faced difficulties expressing their faith and fulfilling the religious obligations of Ramadan.
In China, some schools and government agencies in Xinjiang province – home to many ethnic Uyghurs who practice Islam – adopted policies to prevent residents from fasting during Ramadan, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Muslim schoolchildren and officials were forbidden to "engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities."
China has the highest level of religious restrictions in general, according to a 2015 Pew survey.
A 2010 Christian Science Monitor story explored unique traditions that different countries incorporate into their celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
In Turkey, Eid is often referred to as Seker Bayrami (“Holiday of the Sweets”) and children go door to door, wishing people a happy Bayram (holiday) and receiving candy and traditional sweets such as baklava and Turkish Delight in return.
In Asir, Saudi Arabia, Eid al-Fitr will include elements more typical of Eid celebrations around the world, reports Arab News: special morning prayers, traditional dishes, and new clothes.