Not having grown up in a Muslim household I don’t have any memories of how to celebrate Ramadan as a child. My father was a chef, and my mother had a very wholesome perspective on child-rearing, so I have many fond memories that I can translate over. When we lived near my husband’s family (whose family is all Muslim), they simply did more or less what everyone else did, and I just added a little of my own crafty ideas (Ramadan and Eid cards, 3D paper mosques, garlands and paper lanterns). But now we live in a non-Muslim country, all my kids are in school, of praying age, and have started asking for more information, curious about many aspects of our lives that don’t match up with most kids at school. I believe we are all ready for a more in-depth perspective on Ramadan.
Crafting isn’t as fascinating and engaging as it used to be for my kids (ages 7-13), but I still believe we should make something tangible together to mark the occasion. This year I’m making a dua’ and shukr calendar, out of quark and other reusable materials (I am using chalk-board tags that I’ll pin to the board, with a date wrapped in paper). Along with this I have a couple of small boards on easels where they can write their own dua or shukr note. I don’t want this to end up in a landfill, so it had to be versatile enough to be repurposed after Ramadan. It also had to include an aspect of production, not just reception of useful information (thus the writing). If all goes well, we might even keep the activity going all year! The idea is to get them thinking about gratitude, and their connection to Allah on a daily basis, on top of the after-school tafseer and seerah session that I have programmed, this should keep them excited and engaged, just like the chocolate calendars kept us counting down to Christmas as kids. With Ramadan we are adding the spiritual aspect, which I think is essential to maintain the spirit of the season. Below is a picture that inspired me, though this isn’t what I’m going to be doing, it is a very simple and versatile idea in its own right.
My children attend public school, which means that I feel the need to be much more actively involved in their religious upbringing and within the school, for them to feel a stronger bond to their faith. It can be challenging to maintain pride and unwavering identification with a faith that isn’t just a minority, but frequently maligned. So I spend as much time as I can at their school, volunteering, letting the kids play after school, talking with the teachers, and so on. I believe that if the school’s population get to know us, they will be more comfortable with us all, and being different won’t be as much of an issue. However, I also want my kids to be able to express their excitement and share in the joys that they feel around our religious holidays, so I usually inform the teachers weeks in advance about upcoming festivities (such as Ramadan, the two Eids, and the New Year). I provide them with a brief explanation of how this might affect the kids (some of them want to try fasting during school, or we might miss school altogether for a day or two), I give them a general overview of the significance of these holidays, I make myself available for class talks, and provide handy craft ideas for the class to do.
Last year, for example, I gave a half hour presentation to two of my kids’ classes and brought in some dates and a traditional Libyan condiment (bsisa: http://libyanfood.blogspot.ca/2010/08/bseisa-and-howira.html ) that we normally reserve for Ramadan, and I was invited to give a one hour lesson on Arabic calligraphy for the higher grade. My kids loved it when they were able to share this special event with their class, and they felt comforted by the fact that their mom could explain everything to their friends. This year my kids will be giving the presentation themselves, and they are just as excited. One will be doing a slide presentation, one will be using bristle board, and one will hopefully be directing a card-making session. Having seen me present before, they are much more confident in what to say and how. As I help them with their preparations, they try to anticipate questions, and thus dig deeper and try to absorb as much of the information as they can. There is no better way to learn, than by teaching!
To mark the festive atmosphere at home we hang lights, we’ve made cards, garlands and streamers of lanterns to decorate our “prayer room” (for Ramadan we convert our rec-room into a musallah), my oldest has built a 3D mosque out of a wooden tangerine box, some silver foil, paper, and green wax (in Libya most mosques are white with a green dome), he even added a battery-operated candle to the minaret, to “call” attention to it! They’ve already asked to be able to collect money to give to charity during Ramadan, so this is something else we hope to build upon during this blessed month.
In line with participating, and following my own father’s legacy, they will also be helping out with meal preparation, on most days, making salads, pizza, chopping veggies, and other simple sous-chef duties. My father was a chef, and being able to help him out in the kitchen always felt like a great honor. My kids have already come to me on many an occasion asking to learn how to make something, or to help out, so I do believe they are ready for this. They’ve all fasted before, even if just for a few hours, and they have clear memories of what we’ve done in the past, to be able to make associations; now it’s time to cement them into life-long memories, insha Allah.
Hopefully all activities will feed off of one another, and foster patience while they each go through their turns, and cooperation in the activities we’ll be doing all together. I am truly looking forward to this Ramadan more than ever, as I hope that all these activities will (insha Allah) help us become more active participants, helping each other be the best we can be, and building precious memories that they can carry on throughout their lives, bi idhnillah.
May Ramadan build positive, meaningful memories that will last a lifetime!
One Sister blogging at https://cafecaterpillar.blog/