What is Ramadan?
Islam follows a lunar calendar and Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year. This year the first day of Ramadan is expected to start on April 24.
Growing up, there were many years that Ramadan fell during the winter months. That meant our fasts lasted about 10 hours. This year it falls during the spring which means we will be fasting for about 13 hours. Even though Ramadan starts on the same day throughout the world, the duration of your fast can vary by a few hours, depending on which country and time zone you live in.
What does a day of fasting look like?
While fasting, Muslims go to work, attend school, take care of their children, and continue their daily lifestyle without food and water. When the sunsets, we have “iftar” which is the food we eat when we break our fast. Family gatherings play a big role in Ramadan. This is the time where everyone gathers and enjoys a big feast every night. We break our fast with a short prayer, dates, and water.
Can you eat around us?
Of course! We look forward to the month of Ramadan and fasting is a personal endeavor. It is certainly appreciated when things such as lunch meetings are avoided while we are fasting.
Since we continue life as usual, we attend weddings, graduations and other big events during the time we break our fast. Although it is not expected, we are grateful when you know fasting Muslims are present, and appreciate when you are able to accommodate us by providing a meal (no pork!), water (no alcohol!) and a quiet area to pray just in time for the sunset.
Do all Muslims fast?
No. Those with health conditions, the elderly, travelers, young children, pregnant, breastfeeding and/or menstruating women are exempt from fasting. If you are able to, you can make up your missed fasts later on throughout the year.
Many parents will make some personal modifications for their young children who wish to participate in the Ramadan spirit. Some kids fast for “half” a day while some will drink water throughout the day.
How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a holiday called Eid. We wish each other by saying “Happy Eid” or “Eid Mubarak.” We start off the holiday by attending an Eid prayer at the local mosque. Traditionally, we dress up in new sparkly outfits, just like on Easter Sunday. And just like Christmas, we exchange gifts with family and friends. Some of us even set up a Ramadan/Eid tree to make it extra festive. The most common gift is to give money to children. My favorite memory of Eid is going from house to house, feasting on home cooked food with family and friends, and curing my food coma with naps throughout the day.
It’s a Celebration!
One of the best ways we kick off Ramadan with our children is by getting the house decorated with lights and reading some of our favorite Islamic children’s books to get in the Ramadan spirit. My daughter is 2 years old and starting to grasp the concept of different holidays. This year she was able to do her first ever Ramadan crafts! I traced her precious, little hands to look like prayer hands and will send them out as Ramadan cards to our family and friends.
Here is a shortlist of wonderful books that celebrate and explain the month of Ramadan. There are a variety of books available but I thought I’d conclude a list of my daughter’s favorites along with free printable Ramadan activity sheets:
Ramadan and COVID-19
While Ramadan and Eid is typically a time spent amongst our family and Muslim community, this year will be different for all of us. Just like our Christian and Jewish friends who just celebrated Easter and Passover away from their families, we will be doing the same with Ramadan and Eid. Whether it’s breaking our fasts with our families over a Zoom call or an impromptu Eid photo shoot with our iPhones, I trust our community will come together to celebrate while maintaining a safe social distance.
We welcome our friends from other religions to celebrate the spirit of Ramadan by donating to the needy and performing good deeds throughout the month. The community needs it now more than ever.
May the blessings of this holy month be on all of us.