Eid mehndi refers to the intricate designs drawn on the hands of Muslim women using henna ink to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast. Eid-Ul-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that falls on the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, and the festivities last for three days. Frequently referred to simply as Eid, the holiday is similar to New Year’s Day. During this holiday, observant Muslims are forbidden to fast. Although attending prayers is not obligatory, Muslims are encouraged to go for fellowship. They are also encouraged to dress up in their best clothes. For many Muslim women in South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East or women whose heritage is based in these cultures, dressing up for Eid includes wearing Eid mehndi.
The term mehndi simply refers to the henna used as the ink. Henna has been used as a dye for centuries, coloring the hair of women, the beards of men, and the manes and tales of horses. Believed to have healing properties, henna was also used to dye hands and feet. There is some evidence that the practice began with the Egyptian pharaohs before becoming popular in other regions.
In addition to Eid mehndi, women decorate themselves with mehndi tattoos for other important occasions and holidays. Brides will wear elaborate mehndi during their weddings on their hands, feet, forearms, and shins. In some cultures, they must include the name of the groom in the design to show their intended obedience to their future husband. While men do not generally wear mehndi, some grooms will use a simple dot design to decorate their hands.
Types of mehndi vary by region. Women in India tend to prefer more abstract, linear designs, while Middle Easterners tend to choose floral designs. Mehndi are often a deep brownish-red, although nowadays the henna can come in different colors. Typically the ink will not fade for two or three weeks after application, depending on the quality of the henna and how often the hands are washed.
Many women choose to schedule an appointment to have their Eid mehndi done by a skilled artist, but others may choose to purchase stencils or attempt to draw their own designs. There are a number of online tutorials available showing women carefully crafting the tattoo using fine-tipped henna pens. Other sites collect images of Eid mehndi, so women can copy those designs for their own use.