This week sees the beginning of the annual period of fasting called Ramadan, which lasts for 29 or 30 days, according to the lunar Islamic calendar. Observed by a large proportion of the almost 2bn Muslims all over the world and collectively felt as one of the most special times of the year, it is completed by the happy festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. This will be my first year fasting after 4 years of breastfeeding, exempting me from the obligation, and I’m feeling equal parts daunted and excited.
I have been fasting every year since I was a young teen, and with it comes special family breakfasts just before the break of day, preparing of meals, parcels of dates and sweet treats to send over to neighbours, and evenings full of food, collective prayer and inviting guests for dinner. The fasting age is usually around the time of puberty, so this differs for every child and their sensitivity, and beyond that it is upon anyone who is healthy and able. As a little girl, and keen to be included in the with my 3 elder brothers, I fondly remember my mother would say to me I could fast from breakfast until lunch today, then lunch until dinner tomorrow and she would sew them together to make a whole day!
For children Ramadan is as exciting as it is peaceful. Some homes are decorated, some not so much, some have cupboards and fridges stocked with food, others approach it more simply. We try to prioritise reading of the Qu’ran and connection with its meaning, as well as reading books about the lunar cycle, about what charity means to us and how to give it, and the appreciation of the small things in life – especially in the knowledge that other children have much less, all over the world. The international connection with the human race is something so magical, and Ramadan offers an opportunity to start from from the heart.
Preparing nutritious food is a great way for children to get involved as we will be doing with my little ones this year. We make dates soaked in milk, banana pancakes and simple eggs with home-made bread for suhoor, the morning meal. For iftar, at sunset, we will prepare fresh fruit, soup, and sometimes larger meals with rice and meat – but this can become very heavy every day! Often the craving is little more than that and the simpler the meal, the more everyone is satisfied. Of course it differs within different cultures, however I must admit we are partial to a few South African deep fried delights – dipped in soup is the best! And of course plenty of water for hydration. The body is an incredibly adaptive machine!
There is so much more to say on Ramadan but hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea of what is to come for my family and others. I’ve included some titles that may help too. Perhaps you have Muslim neighbours that have taught you a little about this time of year? We would love to hear your experience.
Love and Light,