Amid hugs and joyous greetings, thousands of Muslims crowded Ontario Convention Center on Tuesday to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Cries of "Eid Mubarak," or "Holiday blessings to you," rang out across the center. So many people took part that two prayer sessions were offered in the cavernous ballroom.
"This is a big celebration for us," said Sadia Ahmed of Chino Hills. "It gives us the chance to meet the whole community and to greet each other."
Ramadan celebrates the revelation of the Koran, Islam's holy book, to the prophet Muhammad. The devout not only fast from dawn to dusk for the month, but also abstain from sex, tobacco and other pleasures. Each night, many families recite a portion of the Koran, so that by month's end all 114 chapters have been read.
On Tuesday, families dressed in traditional finery divided into separate sections for men and women, removed their shoes, formed straight lines facing Mecca and prayed in celebration of completing 30 days of fasting, charitable deeds and quiet introspection.
Imam Jamal Al-Henaid of the Islamic Center of Claremont in Pomona noted that while prayer and pilgrimage can be social activities, fasting is deeply private.
"Fasting is the only thing that is between you and Allah. Nobody else," he said. "It's a direct relationship between you and Allah."
Al-Henaid especially praised the children, who remained hungry while watching friends eat lunch at school.
Shaila and Tahir Andrabi, Pakistani natives who live in Claremont, used the holiday to help their children learn about their religious traditions.
"It always agonizes me -- Christmas is so big here. Our children feel left out," said mother Shaila Andrabi.
So on Saturday, she and her husband hosted a "henna party" for 25 of their children's friends, bringing in a woman who paints the reddish stain in intricate designs on palms and soles.
"It was a big hit," Shaila Andrabi said.
While the parents fasted every day from dawn to dusk, less is expected of the children: 13-year-old Nafeesa and 9-year-old Aneesa fasted for a couple of days, while 4-year-old Mohi is not yet expected to give up food.
"It puts the present material life in perspective," said Tahir Andrabi. "You do some good deeds, take a little time out. We all live such harried lives."
Aneesa, dressed in a gold-trimmed, velvety purple shalwar kameez -- a traditional tunic-like top over matching pants -- said she learned patience and "not to be so picky about food."
But both parents longed for caffeine, one of the month's forbidden pleasures.
"It was very hard," said Shaila Andrabi, a habitual tea-drinker. "The first day I had such a headache."
After prayers, the family planned a big breakfast and a day of celebration at a friend's home in Glendale.
Many of those at the prayer service planned to gather with family and friends Tuesday afternoon. Food was a major factor, including special sweets made of vermicelli, pistachios and sweetened milk, and biryani containing lamb, rice and spices.