Milad an-Nabi, also known as Mawlid al-Nabi, is a holiday celebrated by some Muslims which commemorates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
It takes place on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwa.. In 2015, the holiday begins on the evening of January 2 and continues until the evening of January 3.
Some celebrate by remembering episodes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad or by reciting devotional poetry and hymns. Parents are given the opportunity to teach their children about the Prophet's teachings, bravery, and forgiving character. Some families also make sure to donate to charity on this day.
There is some debate over whether this date should be observed by Muslims -- with some arguing that the practice glorifies the Prophet above his humanity and others saying that Muhammad and his immediate contemporaries never celebrated this birthday.
Omid Safi, Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, explained it this way:
For the Muslims who honor Muhammad’s Mawlid, it’s the deep love for Muhammad that brings them closer to God. For those who identify as Salafi, and wish to abide only by practices that they believe originate in the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad, it is a way of honoring the desire to practice Islam as Muhammad would have wanted us to do, without what is deemed to be later accretions and potentially dubious practices. As the Prophet himself is to have said, disagreement among the scholars is a mercy.