"My Favorite Holiday is Ramadan” - By Salwa Alavi
I was in the kitchen preparing lunch when my 5 year old son was in virtual school. It was just a couple of days before his Christmas holidays began, the teacher asked him about his favorite holiday. He very confidently replied “my favorite holiday is Ramadan”. I cannot describe what I felt after I heard those words. Smiling on my own, I made a little dua “may Allah always fill his and all my kids’ hearts with love for Ramadan and Allah now and forever”. Ultimately that is the goal right?
Ever since he was 3 and my daughter was just 18 months, I have made efforts to make Ramadan a happy and fun time of the year for them. Whether it was decorating, baking cookies, exchanging small gifts or making Eid cards, Ramadan has always been about the kids in our house. My husband and I have this fear that if we fall behind in inculcating love for Ramadan and Eid in our kids, they will eventually grow apart from Islam. I believe even at a very young age, it is important to teach them that Ramadan is a special time of the year for us and it should be celebrated with family and friends. Here are a few things we do that have become traditions by now.
Having a “Welcome Ramadan” playdate
I always try to host a playdate a few weeks before Ramadan starts; it is usually filled with lots of snacks, fun games, and group crafts. One time, I made them create lanterns with construction paper and tissue. Another time, they decorated a glass jar to put their good deeds in.
Of course last year with the pandemic, Ramadan was really different than usual, so I hosted a virtual playdate. I read “It’s Ramadan, Curious George” to them, which is also a staple in our house.
Decorating the house
Children don’t understand the concept of spiritually preparing for Ramadan, therefore we have to prepare physically by decorating our homes. I am so glad that Ramadan and Eid decorations are so easily available these days. We didn’t have much when we were growing up.
We usually put up a banner and some balloons, along with a table full of small gifts to be opened throughout the month. I had also made an advent calendar for both of my kids using small drawers and gluing them together to make 30 little compartments. Every day they’d wake up excited to do a good deed in order to receive either a candy or a small toy. On Fridays, they got a bigger gift such as a coloring book or a puzzle.
In 2020, Ramadan fell just at the brink of the beginning of Covid-19, so we weren’t comfortable going out too much for shopping. I had made the kids create their own banner and placemats.
Going to the masjid
The best part of Ramadan is always the taraweeh prayer for me. Going to the masjid, meeting fellow Muslims from the community, praying with family and friends is always heartwarming. I always pack a few activities for the kids that they can do while I pray.
Again, since 2020 was different in so many ways, I had to remind my kids that going to the masjid is still important. I bought a cute cardboard playhouse which we transformed into a masjid by putting prayer rugs, prayer beads, and Islamic storybooks in it.
Making their favorite food & desserts
When I was growing up, we always spent the hour before sunset listening to lectures or making dua. This is why I like to have my iftaar done beforehand. Of course I get my kids to help setup the plates and water at the table, then we sit down listening to or making our own dua until it’s time to eat.
Some of our must-have iftaar items are of course dates and ghawa, along with fruit custard, watermelon, samosas, and pakoras. I try to make a few kid-friendly food items such as pizza or sandwiches so that they enjoy sitting down and eating with us.
Doing good deeds
I try to make the list of “good deeds” ahead of time; little things such as memorizing 5 of Allah’s names or calling grandparents are a few examples of things that a 4 or 5 year old might be able to do.
Along with the small things we do, I make sure my children know about the needy people of the community. It is important to make them aware of the blessings that Allah has provided us with. We always try to donate whatever we can. I take my kids to the grocery store to buy a few essentials such as rice, flour, sugar, etc. and we go drop off these items to the local masjid. Along with donating food, I also try to make them understand the importance of giving toys and clothes.
Learning about prophets
There are several books that narrate the amazing stories of our prophets in a child-friendly manner. I try to read one story to my kids every day throughout Ramadan, but the days I am not able to, I show them a video of a prophetic story. We also do crafts and activities related to the stories we learned. For example, I had my daughter draw and color a whale because her favorite story is the story of prophet Yunus (pbuh).
It is important for us to remind our children about our amazing prophets as well as their wives and daughters so that one day they thrive to become like them.
Creating Eid cards & goodie bags
All throughout Ramadan, my kids do a countdown for Eid. During the last few days, we start making “Eid Mubarak” cards as well as plan what to do on the day of. Meeting family and exchanging gifts is exciting for the children. They enjoy being involved in every part of the whole process.
Having an Eid party
The night before Eid, I put Henna on my daughter, we iron our Eid clothes and have everything ready for the Eid prayer the next morning. Once they are asleep, I pack their gifts, my husband decorates again for Eid and puts up the “Happy Eid” lawn sign. I wake them up with the “Eidun Said” song by Zain Bikha. They excitedly wake up and open their gifts. We get ready and pray the Eid namaz.
I am grateful that there a lot of resources today for parents to make Ramadan and Eid fun for our children. In a world where other holidays are so grandeur, we need to make sure Ramadan and our two Eid's are the ones that are celebrated with the most passion in our homes.
Note About the Author: Salwa Alavi is a mother of three beautiful children; Eesa (5), Soha (4), and Haya (6 months). She has a Master’s degree in Education and currently is a stay at home mom. She loves to read and write along with doing fun things with her children.