– What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a special celebration in the Muslim faith of the month when the Muslim Holy book, the Quran, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. According to the Quran, the actual night of this revelation is known as Laylat al-Qadr (“The Night of Power”). Ramadan lasts for 30 days and is a time for reflection, contemplation, and celebration within the Muslim community, and is celebrated by almost 4 million Muslim people in the UK representing about 6.5% of the total population. Worldwide, there are approximately 2.2 billion people who follow Islam.
When is Ramadan?
The Islamic calendar is different to the traditional Gregorian calendar that we use in the West, and Ramadan is the ninth month of this Islamic calendar. The exact dates of Ramadan change every year, because Islam uses a lunar calendar based on the changing cycles of the moon, rather than the movement of the earth around the sun, which gives us a year in the Gregorian calendar. Therefore every year, the exact dates of Ramadan (and every other Islamic festival) vary and fall approximately 10 days earlier each year.
In 2023, Ramadan starts on Wednesday 22 March, and is due to end on Friday 21 April, with the 3-day festival called Eid al-Fitr running from Saturday 22 April, with Laylat al-Qadr being celebrated on Monday 17 April.
How is Ramadan celebrated?
As with many religious festivals, Ramadan is a time for prayer and good deeds and it is a month when families and friends come together and celebrate with their wider communities. Muslims are encouraged to give up bad habits during Ramadan, and many Muslims will try to read the whole Quran at least once during Ramadan or carry out other religious acts of worship or sacrifice. Ways in which Muslims uphold traditions include:
- Greeting others by wishing them a happy Ramadan during the month. Two traditional Ramadan greetings which you could teach to the children in your setting are:
– Ramadan Mubarak – Happy Ramadan
– Ramadan Kareem – Have a generous Ramadan
- Fasting – also known as sawm (see below for more information)
- Zakat – this means “purification,” and it encourages all Muslims who are able, to donate some of their income or wealth to the poor, or get involved in an act of charity. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam, central to the Islamic faith
- Decorations – Ramadan decorations are not necessarily part of the longstanding tradition, but they have become increasingly popular in recent years. They often involve fabric with red patterns and lanterns, although there are a wide variety of decorations used to celebrate Ramadan nowadays
Fasting during Ramadan
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink during daylight hours. This is called fasting. Since the timing of Ramadan moves over a number of years, this can vary between about 8 and 14 hours a day depending on whether Ramadan falls in winter or summer. Certain people such as children under 14, the elderly or travellers are not expected to fast but most other Muslims do. The reason for fasting is to teach people self-discipline, allow for physical cleaning, and to remind them of the suffering of the poor.
However, it is not that people cannot eat at all – they just refrain from eating during daylight hours. At other times, such as just before dawn, people have one meal (known as the suhoor), and another one (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.
Breaking the fast – Eid al-Fitr
The end of Ramadan is marked by a big celebration called Eid al-Fitr or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, and as you can imagine, it involves special meals and celebrations with friends, family and the local community. People celebrate not only the end of Ramadan, but also thank Allah for giving them the strength and devotion during the last month. Many mosques hold special services and people are allowed to eat during daylight hours as special community gatherings during the Eid (festival).
The exact timing of the start of the festival depends on when the moon is first sighted but it is expected to start on Saturday 22 April or Sunday 23 April 2023.
Ramadan recipes for Eid al-Fitr
Once fasting is over, the feast can begin and there are a number of traditional dishes that are served including:
- Dates – these are a traditional way to ease back into eating after fasting
- Soups – popular varieties are vegetable, lentil, chicken and vermicelli
- Fattoush – Fattoush is a salad made of fresh vegetables and served with either pita or crispy bread
- Tharid – this is one of the most typical Ramadan dishes, and consists of Arabian meat and a vegetable stew over crispy bread. There are many variations on the dish, like the Levantine fatteh, Moroccan trid, and Iranian dizi
- Kebabs and samosas – meat and/or vegetarian versions
- Baklava – a sweet dessert made with nuts and honey
How to celebrate Ramadan in your setting
This Ramadan, why not encourage your staff and children to celebrate the month of Ramadan in different ways. Think about:
- Zakat – organising a charity collection of old clothes or toys that you can donate to a local children’s hospital or charity
- Trying new foods – see https://www.islamicity.org/food/ for lots of useful recipes
- Create some Ramadan crafts based around the sun and the moon – see https://artsycraftsymom.com/10-ramadan-crafts-and-activities-for-kids/ for some useful ideas which are easy and fun
- Read stories about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr during storytime. There are a number of dedicated children’s books on the subject including “It’s Ramadan, Curious George” by A. H. Rey, “Eid al-Fitr” by Grace Jones, “Ramadan Moon” by Na’ima B. Robert, and “Rashad’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr” by Lisa Bullard to name but a few
- Tell children about the different religions around the world
- Sing some songs about Ramadan – there are lots of age-appropriate and catchy songs on YouTube
- Create a display about how you have celebrated Ramadan and hold a special party at the end to mark the end of the fast
References and more information
2021 Census: As UK Population Grows, So Do British Muslim Communities