How I Am Celebrating Ramadan in my House This Year
Ramadan (also known as Ramzan in the sub-continent) is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar. It is considered a Holy month for all Muslims. The very first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this time and hence this month is the celebration of this great source of spiritual guidance. Muslims are prescribed to fast (keep roza) every day during this month by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
It is an act of discipline, proving that we as humans are capable of self-restraint over our passions and basic desires. This state of being also allows those who fast to appreciate the blessings bestowed on them and to feel empathy for those who are not as fortunate. Thus charity is an important part of celebrating this month as well.
For any Muslim, this month is meant to be revered and respected. It is spent in prayer, reflection, acts of kindness and giving; a spiritual cleanse of the mind, body and soul. It is a time to spend with family and loved ones, ideally breaking fast with them together.
Muslims around the world are part of diverse cultures. As a result varying cultural traditions have flavoured the Ramadan experience from country to country. This flavouring of course is centred on the food eaten before the fast begins at dawn (known as sehri) and when the fast ends at dusk (known as Iftar).
Prophet Muhammad was observed to break his fast first with a date (khajoor), which is still followed by the majority. Today, the food served after varies according to the region.
Having a sub-continent based background, my childhood memories of Ramadan consisted of the fragrant scent of Rooh Afza (a rose sherbert) and crispy, crunchy pakoras (vegetable fritters). I kept my first fast at the age of 9, but started keeping all of them once I hit puberty. It was a personal sense of accomplishment as I felt great pride in being able to keep them consistently from a fairly young age. Despite the self-control, it was still hard sitting and waiting for the sun to set with the onslaught of food aroma infiltrating my nostrils. But boy was it worth the wait taking that first succulent bite, that first drink to quench all thirst.
Waking up to eat before dawn one was tempted not to get up at all but my mother made sure we had an omelet or fried egg and paratha (flatbread) meal to last us through enough of the day. Quickly chugging down glasses of water as if they were the last drops we would ever have, before the siren from the local mosque went off signalling the time to eat had come to an end and the call for Fajr (dawn prayer) about to begin.
Celebrating Ramadan in a Muslim majority country is a different phenomenon altogether. The pace of the country during the day slows down considerably, work days become shorter. Come evening though and there is a hustle bustle of food preparation and socialization. The streets and mosques are decorated with lights. It is filled with family and community gatherings, staying up till late having pots and pots of chai.
Counting down the days towards Eid-ul-Fitr (which marks the end of Ramadan) looking for the perfect outfits to wear to the upcoming Eid parties. It is a shared community experience and some how you feel more connected spiritually.
My Ramadan’s in Canada before I was married came close to the familial experience of back home, but that had to do with having many elders of the family nearby to make sure traditions were being followed.
As a wife and mother, living in Canada today I have to admit I have not been following the traditions I miss so dearly about Ramadan. The cultural delicacies never get made because ‘who has the time?’ Sehri will start with a quick bowl of cereal if anyone manages to wake up before sun rise. It doesn’t help that Ramadan has been falling in the summer months the last few years leading to long fasting days and very short nights. Even though the essence of this spiritual month is not about the cultural, it still carries with it a nostalgic bond which I would want to pass on to my daughter. So she remembers this month as a shared family experience of fasting, praying and eating together and not in isolation.
Here are some tips which I plan to follow to bring back the culture in our household this year:
Desi Grocery List: Make a list of all the desi/ethnic delicacies you want to make and go to the desi stores to stock up before Ramadan starts.
Plan your Day: Since there is a defined time by when you need to eat, you can set your clock to however many hours you need prior to prepare the night’s meal. You don’t need to get fancy every day. Select special desi treats you would like to make, even if it’s twice a week.
Plan your Night: By the time the sun sets (around 9 pm) till the sun starts to rise (around 3:30 am), there doesn’t leave much time to let your food digest and get to bed before you’re up again in a groggy daze trying to prepare the first meal of the day. Set up your early morning table before you go to bed.
Invite Family & Friends: Host an iftar party at your place calling family and friends to break fast with you. Eating together is unifying and creates community. What more fun is there than to break bread with your loved ones during this special time.
Pray Together: This is the one time where everyone is ready to be at the dinner table at the same time. Use the opportunity to pray together, known as praying in a jamaat. I never felt more connected as a family unit then during those times when my brothers and parents and I prayed together, with my father leading the prayers.
From my family to yours I wish you all a very blessed Ramadan. May all your prayers be answered!
How do you celebrate Ramadan in your household? Would love to hear about your family’s traditions!
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