Ask any Muslim family what's the most wonderful time of year in their home and the answer's a straight-shot, quick, no-brainer: Ramadan.
Just the thought of it gets me all warm and fuzzy.
Though this year there's an added apprehension to that warm and fuzzy feeling, as I and Muslims all around the world wonder how we're going to recreate all the traditions we normally partake in while Social Distancing.
During a normal Ramadan much time is spent outside of the home: we have dinner with family, go to the mosque nightly, even grocery shopping can sometimes turn into an event as we excitedly think about what we need to prepare our family’s Iftar dinner—the nightly dinner in Ramadan (and my personal favorite part—dessert).
But this year, due to Social Distancing, these traditions are going to be much different. This will be the first Ramadan of my entire life that I don't see my parents who live 7 minutes away. This will be the first where my kids don't see their grandparents and cousins. It will be the first we don't host Iftar dinner at our house with family and friends, or attend theirs. This will be the first time my sister-in-laws and I don't meal prep together, planning out what we're each cooking so my Mother-in-Law doesn't have to put together the entire meal alone. This will be the first year that my Father doesn't attend the nightly Quran recitation and prayer at the mosque 4 minutes away from their house. This is the first year my community doesn't gather for a weekend Ramadan festival—a tradition that many look forward to all year long. And I sadly wonder if this will be the first Eid—the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan—that we will be unable to take our girls to the Mosque or visit family.
But I'm not going to mull over these sad questions, and instead I'm going to put on my Big-Girl-Mommy-Pants and make sure we have an amazing Socially Distanced Ramadan at home together, just the four of us. If Christians can have a beautiful Socially Distanced Easter with egg hunts in their backyards, and Jews can have a beautiful Socially Distanced Passover with a family candle lighting over Zoom, then we Muslims can get just as resourceful and create a beautiful Ramadan alone at home for our families.
For one, I Facetimed my mom last night so the kids can sing the children's song she plays for them yearly the day before Ramadan begins. I wasn't planning to at first. My husband and I were trying to play it for them ourselves after we finished decorating, even though a part of me sadly wasn't excited to sing along, as I knew that was my mom's tradition for them. But when they refused to take part and said it was because "they only sing that song with Tata" I got tears in my eyes and hurriedly grabbed for my phone. Five minutes later and they were all smiles again, and so was I, having partaken in their yearly tradition with her after all.
As to the many other traditions we have, we'll have to improvise, take them with a grain of salt, and perhaps make some new ones. This is obviously not the year to be creating large elaborate daily menus since we should be limiting our grocery shopping to only 1-2 times per week, instead of the usual Ramadan daily grocery runs based on Fasting-induced-cravings. Instead, we'll learn to organize and plan out our menus ahead of time, and include the craved meals we know we love. We can have Zoom dinners with our family members, and if we want to take it a step further we can all create the same menu that evening so we’re eating the same meal, something we’d be doing if we were actually dining together. And maybe we can also learn to recreate our favorite dishes from the Community Ramadan festival at home. The positive aspect here is that this instance is a learning experience for us in planning, organization, and resourcefulness.
I also received many emails in the last week from local mosques around us offering all their yearly nightly lectures, prayer services, and Quran recitations via Zoom and Facebook Live online. And again, looking at the positive of this, we don’t have to get dressed to go anywhere, and as a mom this actually works into my schedule very well—I don’t have to plan for a babysitter, and can watch them as I homeschool or prepare dinner. Conducting them at home also allows us to partake together as a family, something we might have otherwise been unable to do given my daughters’ young ages.
So yes, to say this isn’t going to be the most memorable Ramadan yet, is an understatement. But it can be memorable for all the right reasons, and not just because of the traditions 'we missed out on'. My daughter asked me this morning if we were going to be going to the Mosque this year on Eid, and I had to honestly answer her “I don’t know”, though I know deep-down what that answer most likely is. When she walked away sadly I grabbed her shoulders and reminded her that no matter what happens, we will have an amazing Ramadan and an even more fun Eid. Then she hugged me and said, “I know Mama, you always make sure we have the best time ever!”