The wonderful month of Ramadhan is now approaching. For children and adults alike, this can be a much-needed time to grow spiritually and become closer as a family. For individuals who have been raised Muslim, many family traditions may be passed on and practised year after year. However, for converts, or individuals who are just beginning to practise their faith, this can mean developing a whole new set of traditions, as well as the abandonment of many of the celebrations (such as birthdays or Christmas) that we may have grown up with.
Growing up as a non-Muslim, I had fond memories of the holidays. We were not a religious family, and we were not a wealthy family, so we would often focus upon family-togetherness, gratitude and love during these special times. Whether it was decorating with handmade trinkets, the taste of my grandmother’s turkey dressing or the fresh scent of pine needles, these memories still warm my heart – even today.
So when I converted to Islam and began to have children of my own, I knew that many of the traditions that I had so loved as a child would not be carried on. The years passed, and a few Ramadhans and ‘Eids went by, but something was clearly missing. I realised that it was time to create new family traditions so that my children could have the same heart-warming memories that I cherished from my own childhood.
For families living in non-Muslim lands, it can be especially difficult to compensate for the countless non-Islamic holidays practised around us. Making Ramadhan and the two ‘Eids special, and filling them with traditions that the family can look forward to, can really help fill in the gaps and ensure that children do not feel disheartened by the non-Muslim festivities around them.
So, here are a few traditions and ideas from our family to yours. I hope they will inspire you to find creative ways to make your next Ramadhan one to remember…
RAMADHAN TRADITIONS TO:
Get into the spirit
• Begin fasting in the month before Ramadhan. Try to include the whole family. This will make transitioning into full-time fasting much easier.
• Create a Ramadhan Countdown Calendar to heighten the excitement and help everyone prepare for the fast.
• Before Ramadhan begins, discuss each family member’s goals for the month and explore ways to help one another achieve those goals.
• Decorate the house as a family. Something as simple as paper rings, stars and lanterns can really spruce up the home and offers an excellent opportunity to bond with the family. You can also decorate the outside of the house to show that this is your family’s time to celebrate. Try having the kids decorate a sign to hang on your door announcing that it’s the holy month.
• Decrease TV time, and create a special Ramadhan Reading Space. Decorate the area with floor pillows and a small bookshelf and put lots of age-appropriate Islamic books on the shelf that will appeal to everyone in the household.
• Ramadhan is a time of renewal. Clean the whole house, and have the children go through clothes, toys and books, and set aside items that they don’t want or use anymore. Have a garage sale, and donate the funds to charity or donate the items to a local charitable organisation.
Strengthen the bonds
• Have younger children fast from candy/sweets, so that they feel included too!
• Get together as a family when Ramadhan is expected to begin, and attempt to sight the moon.
• Make suhoor extra special by serving smoothies or pastries that are normally reserved as treats.
• Make a Ramadhan scrap book (online as a photo album/blog or a real one with arts and crafts supplies) taking photos of the moon each night, gifts and meals shared, fun activities, etc.
• Spend some time outdoors, even if it’s only in your own backyard. Use this opportunity to talk to the kids about the moon cycles, or just relish the beauty of nature.
• The family that prays together stays together! Go to the masjid as a family to pray Taraweeh prayers, and pray them at home as a family as well.
Strengthen the faith
• Make a “Gratitude Jar.” Decorate a jar, then think of 30 things you or your family may be grateful for. Write these ideas on scraps of paper; you could write serious or silly things (for example, I am grateful for sunshine/ the great art the kids make me/our home/ being Muslim, etc) and add an activity to each one that celebrates that gratitude (for sunshine it might be to spend a day at the beach. For kids’ art it might be paint a picture together, etc). Pull one gratitude/activity from the jar each day and talk about why you’re grateful for it and do the activity together.
• In addition to Qur’an, play permissible nasheeds around the house to keep everyone distracted from the difficulty of the fast.
• Have the children work as a team to memorise a new surah of the Qur’an. Reward them if they are able to complete it.
• If you don’t do this regularly, have the children (and yourself) recite the three Quls and make du’a each night before bed.
Increase in charity
• Allow each child to decorate their own Sadaqah Jar, and then give them opportunities to earn money throughout the month to fill it. Reward the child who earns the most with a special badge or the choice of where you’ll eat for ‘Eid breakfast.
• To pay Zakat-ul-Fitr, have the kids help put together a food box, then leave it anonymously on the doorstep of a needy family early before the ‘Eid prayer.
• Volunteer at a local organisation as a family. Seeing others in need and joining together as a family to help your community, reinforces the ideas that are central to the month of Ramadhan.
• Buy to-go trays and have your children help you make food plates. Check with your masjid for free dawah pamphlets and tape them on top of the trays and pass them out to local homeless people.
Share the love
• Invite family and friends over for iftar, and prepare the meal as a family. There is tremendous reward in feeding the fasting person when it’s time to break their fast. This also helps extend your Ramadhan traditions and festivities to the whole community.
• Can’t get to see all of your extended family? Make a video blog! Make a short recording each day of Ramadhan, talking about the difficulty or ease of the fast, family activities, childhood memories, reflections on the prayer or Qur’an you’ve read that day. Post the video clips on a Blog and invite your family members to subscribe or post videos of their own.
• Have the kids help bake cookies, put them in decorative bags, and give them to neighbours with an explanation of the month of Ramadhan and the importance of kindness to one’s neighbours in Islam.
These are just a few family traditions to consider for this Ramadhan and for those to come. Find traditions that work well for your family and try them this year. Before you know it, they will become long-standing traditions in your home that will make every Ramadhan a Ramadhan to remember, insha Allah!
Ke’lona is a happily married mother of seven living in Wichita, Kansas. She is devoted to raising her children in a healthy, organised, Islamic environment that promotes growth, cooperation and creativity. She balances her time between caring for her family, doing illustrations and graphic design, and managing her small business Creative Motivations which designs charts and organisational systems, specialising in Islamic charts, posters and homeschooling products.