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Festivals of Lights: Ramadan and Eid-ul-fitr

April 1, 2022

Around the world, people celebrate festivals with specific traditions and customs. When people come to Canada, depending on the food and plants available, they adapt and use what’s accessible for traditions. One important element of these festivals is the use of forms of light.

Through the ages, people have gathered together around fire and light in all its forms. Fire offers warmth, heat to cook with, and protection. Light in nature is used for all kinds of purposes. Moonlight and the stars help mark time and aid in navigation while the sun is an essential part of life and growth. Humans seek out light as it provides comfort, the ability to see and the energy to grow food and plants. Light is celebrated as a symbol of hope because in times of darkness, people wish and pray for light and its reassurance. Therefore, it makes sense that many holidays and observances are celebrated with lights as part of their tradition. People in our communities and neighbourhoods around the world celebrate with the sparkle and bang of fireworks, the comfort of a single candle’s flame, the crackle of flames from an open fire, a lit lantern or the twinkle of lights from decorated boughs of an evergreen or even a palm tree!

Light weaves a common thread to unite people from north to south, east to west in the celebration of many festivals including: Indigenous observances, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year, Ramadan/Eid-ul-fitr. Journey with our volunteers and friends from the Children’s International Learning Centre (CILC) as we learn of celebrations and observances by seeing a snapshot of cultural nuances through their eyes with the RBG at Home blog.

(April 2 to May 2, 2022)

(May 2, 2022)

Fareeda Baruwa (she/her), Volunteer at the Children’s International Learning Centre

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, with 1.9 billion Muslims around the globe. Muslims adhere to the 5 pillars of Islam. One of them, Sawm (Fasting) is the essence of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan is Eid-ul-Fitr.

Ramadan: April 2 to May 2, 2022

The time of Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar when the sighting of the moon begins the holy month. During Ramadan, it is encouraged to increase your good deeds. Muslims spend the month fasting from sunrise to sunset, praying into the night, giving charity, and reciting and reflecting on the Quran (Holy Book). Ramadan is the time to build discipline, increase worship and devotion, and cultivate empathy for the less fortunate.

A typical day starts with Suhoor (meal before sunrise), where it is encouraged to eat light and nutritious meals to keep one energized to worship the entire day. Then Fajr (morning prayer) is observed. In the afternoon, two more prayers, Dhuhr and Asr, are observed. After sunset, Muslims break their fast with dates, following the teachings of the Holy Prophet who loved dates. Other common fruits eaten include watermelon and oranges. After Maghrib (evening prayer), families gather around the dinner table to eat Iftar (meal after sunset) and fuel up for the nightly prayers.

In my home country, Nigeria, we have a tradition where one Muslim family prepares the Iftar for the community which is shared at a local mosque (place of worship). Although in Canada, we don’t have this same tradition, I would volunteer at my local mosque to help make Iftar for the community. These are cherished traditions of mine for Ramadan because I catch up with my friends and loved ones.

Physical distancing at prayer ground on Eid Day in Canada
Physical distancing at prayer ground on Eid Day in Canada

Night time is believed to be special during the month, as the Quran was revealed during the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Muslims increase their charitable giving on these nights. They also pray Tarawih (a set of prayers) which is led by an Imam, where the Quran is read. After Tarawih and Isha (final prayer), everyone heads back home to sleep and prepare for the next day! The holy month comes to an end (sadly) when the new moon is sighted, then Muslims say goodbye to Ramadan and welcome Eid with open arms.

Prayer rug and Qur'an
My prayer rug and Qur’an (English translation) and Qur’an (original Arabic text)

Eid-ul-Fitr: May 2 to May 3, 2022

Muslims all over the world celebrate the joyful occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, to mark the end of Ramadan. Eid means ‘happiness’, and Fitr means ‘breaking the fast’.

My family begins the celebration by looking our very best in new clothes, and decorating our house with lights and balloons. We drive down to the mosque for the special prayer accompanied by a short lecture. After, everyone hugs each other where gifts and Eid money are given to the children. Pictures are taken at the prayer ground, then everyone takes a different path back home to eat their first mid-day meal in a month. Often, people visit relatives and friends. Some mosques will host fun events such as BBQs, or carnivals with games and prizes. Overall, it is a joyous day with no single dull moment!

Muslims hope to implement the good habits they cultivated during the month of Ramadan into their everyday lives in order to improve themselves and the rest of society.

At the prayer ground on Eid Day, Pre-COVID, Nigeria
At the prayer ground on Eid Day, Pre-COVID, Nigeria
Children's International Learning Centre

The Children’s International Learning Centre (CILC) is a non-profit organization that was established with the vision of contributing to a world of care and respect for all people and our environment. We endeavour to do this by promoting respect for diversity and awareness of our world community through guided discovery and interactive, artistic programmes, which will soon be delivered online.

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