30 BALLOONS and 30 THINGS WE’RE THANKFUL FOR
Sharmina Zaidi’s four children celebrated the spotting of the moon last year with Ramadan decorations and a “Welcome Ramadan” playdate with their friends at home in Richardson, Texas.
This year for Ramadan, they blew up 30 balloons and filled them with candy — one piece for each child — and a strip of paper with something one of the children was thankful for. Each night, after breaking their fast, they pop a balloon and read that night’s strip of paper.
“Living in a non-Muslim country, you kind of have to find ways to make things exciting for your kids,” she said.
(Photo shared by Sharmina Zaidi)
PULLING ON THEIR OWN TRADITIONS
Jontie Karden and Kung Pik Liu are designers. Sharing Ramadan with their 4-year-old daughter Aisha has allowed the Irvine, Calif., couple to build their own family traditions around the holiday. Pik, who converted to Islam as an adult, speaks of the experience as a sort of creation.
“I’m kind of like a blank piece of white paper,” she says, “I have a chance to create my own tradition, integrating what I used to celebrate and shaping my own new holidays.” When Pik realized there were very few Ramadan-themed decorations available to buy, she made her own — and shared them with others. Now, Jontie and Pik are selling templates for the decorations on their website, and have decided to donate the proceeds to a local Ramadan toy drive.
(Photo by Mohammad Mertaban; shared by Jontie Karden)
“THE CREAM-CHEESE PURI SUHOOR RAMADAN”
Amy Hossain and her husband have two daughters: Keya (11, at left) and Linna (10). Their family has built a new tradition around suhoor (sometimes called sehri), the predawn meal that Muslims share before the day’s fast during Ramadan.
First, they eat the meal by candlelight. As they prepared for Ramadan, the girls got to choose the candle (or candles) that they’d be using to light their morning meals. They love it, Amy says, and have begun eating iftar, the evening meal to break the fast, by candlelight, too.
As she prepared the suhoor meal, Amy says she ran into the practical question of keeping her two young, growing girls sustained throughout a day of fasting: “How can I get enough calories and calcium in them in the morning to keep them going and growing?” the Torrance, Calif., mom asked.
“Answer: Cream-cheese puris, a desi-American fusion food I would like to think I invented,” Amy says. [Get Amy's recipe]
“A puri looks kind of like a tortilla, but puffs up into a ball when deep fried and then flattens again when cool. They are traditionally filled with potatoes or lentils or nothing at all. Seeing as my kids looove cream cheese, I thought: ‘Why not?’ It was a hit the first time it hit the suhoor plates.”
Now, the family eats the cream-cheese puri by candlelight. Fasting with their daughters, Amy says, has encouraged her and her husband to be better role models in their faith. “Thanks to our kids, we can say we are observing Ramadan in a better way.”
(Photo shared by Amy Hossain)
AN INTERFAITH WITNESS
Vicki Tamoush isn’t Muslim. She’s Christian. But she founded a small interfaith organization last year called Interfaith Witnesses, and since then has joined her Muslim friends on many occasions as they’ve broken their fasts during Ramadan.
Vicki (center, who lives in Tustin, Calif., and is pictured with two of her friends who are Muslim) says: “Whenever we non-Muslims are invited to an iftar, many of us fast that day in solidarity with our Muslim friends. … Yes, the heat is a factor, at least for me. It’s much harder for me to fast when Ramadan falls in the hottest part of summer and when the days are longer than at any other time of year.
“However, I think it’s important to note that whenever I hear a non-Muslim comment to a Muslim, ‘It must be so hard…’, invariably the Muslim responds that it is not hard; it’s a blessing to be given the opportunity to fast for this holy reason.
“Adopting that way of thinking makes the fast a blessing for me, too. When I am so thirsty and the sun is hot, I remember that if I wanted to ‘cheat’ and take a big drink of water, I could. But a person living in poverty or in other dire circumstances has no choice about breaking their fast.
“I am forced to think about what it means to have comfort taken away rather than giving it up voluntarily. I am forced to see what I really need in life as opposed to what I simply want. I come to terms with the realization that all I really NEED in life is God’s grace. The rest falls into the category of what I want.”
(Photo shared by Vicki Tamoush)
RAMADAN AS A NEW DAD: EMBRACING THE EVERYDAY ACTS OF WORSHIP
Ahmad Fahmy’s daughter is 6 months old. “Jenna has taught me so much about my own spirituality, life and God — and she doesn’t speak yet,” he says. “I see my very purpose with a new lens and appreciation for the blessings I’ve received from God.”
Ahmad, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minn., says his own faith is even more important in his life since he became a father, as he passes its lessons on to his daughter. Before she was born, he’d read her passages from the Quran. And now, it’s the everyday acts of worship that he especially embraces.
“We also have to understand that it’s not only by reading and going to the masjid… even just being with your daughter and comforting her when she’s cranky — or doing things in the home,” he says, “these are acts of worship themselves.”
(Photo shared by Ahmad Fahmy)
FROM A FOREIGN HOLIDAY TO AN AMERICAN ONE
Asma Khan grew up observing Ramadan as a Pakistani holiday. Her parents were immigrants, and though they lived in Chicago, “it was just a holiday we celebrated in our family and our house,” she says. “It felt very foreign whenever I would leave the house.” The holiday was an internal reflection, she says — partly because the awareness of Ramadan wasn’t as widespread as it is now and partly because, before she had children, she was able to meditate on the holiday on her own.
Now, with two daughters (pictured, at an Eid celebration a few years back), Asma says her experience as a parent — her family lives in Raleigh, N.C. — is just the opposite.
“I feel a need to really celebrate, and make a point of making it festive for the kids,” she says. It’s a holiday of sharing now, she says — and while she’s woven her childhood traditions into her family’s own celebrations, she says, “It is no longer the holiday of my Pakistani immigrant parents, but one I incorporate into my daily American lifestyle.”
(Photo shared by Asma Khan)
BREAKING THE FAST WITH A BURGER AND FRIES
Sameer Sarmast lives in Paramus, N.J. In his office of eight employees, four are fasting this Ramadan.
“The four of us represent a different ethnicity: One Syrian, two African-American and myself, Indian,” he says. “I feel this creates a comfort level for all of us as we share in this holy month together. I have seen more and more Muslims be open about their religion.”
For his July 29 birthday, Sameer (left) and his friend Farhan Yousufi broke their fast with inferno burgers and chili cheese fries at the Famous Hamburger shop in Queens, N.Y.
(Photo shared by Sameer Sarmast)
A SELFISH COMPETITION IN SELFLESSNESS
Chris Carter of Huntley, Ill., spent Ramadan of 2002 in Egypt (pictured). It was the year after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As he tells it, “My first day there, my taxi was pulled over by the police and I remember thinking, ‘Where can a black man go without being harassed by the police?’ To my surprise, we were brought to a local kitchen and offered food by people who were barely able to afford feeding themselves, yet they went out of their way to prepare food for others.
“On another occasion, my taxi driver brought me to his house and served me a very hearty meal. Although his living room was his bedroom and his bed was his sofa, I felt welcomed and honored. … During the month of Ramadan, Muslims selfishly compete with one another in being unselfish; rich or poor, young or old.”
(Photo shared by Chris Carter)