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Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and marks the time when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
While the month is popularly associated with fasting from dawn ‘til dusk—a spiritually rewarding, if arduous practice—it’s only one facet of Ramadan, which is actually many Muslims’ favorite month.
Because Ramadan is tied to the lunar calendar, its exact date varies from year to year. What remains the same, however, is the excitement that Muslims around the world launch into the month with—particularly Muslim parents who can’t wait to create and share traditions with their children.
Community, tradition, and celebration are all a large part of the sacred month, with families gathering for the early morning meal, known as Suhoor, and the post-sunset meal, known as Iftar, to break their fasts together. And, of course, there are few days more exciting than the Eid-al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a time of new clothes, gifts, and delicious food with family and friends.
We spoke with Muslim parents to scope out ideas for their favorite ways to make the holiday even more special for their families. Here are nine ways to celebrate Ramadan with your kids.
1. Make Ramadan decorations
As a Muslim and mother of two children too young to fully understand Ramadan’s significance, one of my favorite parts of the holiday is decorating our place to make it feel extra special for them. It’s common to decorate your home with stars and crescent moons during the holy month.
Yasmine Elashmawy, a mom of three in Ridgewood, New Jersey, has spent years gathering her decorations. “I bought stuff over the years: everything from crescent moons and stars to lanterns and lights. We light our lights every night at Maghrib prayer and have an advent calendar. Each night one of the kids opens the advent box to reveal a treat and Islamic tidbit that we discuss at our Iftar dinner.”
Razeena Omar Gutta also collects different pieces over the years. “We bring them all out and do it differently every year,” she shares. “We try to decorate the Iftar table a bit more than for a usual dinner. We pour zam zam in cute glasses for everyone to break their fast with.”
If your kids are the crafty type, rope them into the action by letting them arrange the decorations and lights, or by tasking them with creating paper chains to display. Or try one of the many beautiful artisan decorations on Etsy, such as hanging moon and stars lights.
2. Matching Ramadan pajamas
For Aya Khalil, a mother of three and author of The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story, Ramadan traditions are particularly meaningful: she has a forthcoming children’s picture book called The Night Before Eid dedicated to special traditions for the holiday.
Among the many traditions her family enjoys—including Rice Krispy treats, sending cookies to neighbors and friends, and encouraging charity—they each wear special pajamas for Ramadan. “We do new matching Ramadan PJs every year! One for each kid,” Khalil says. “It gets them really excited and they open their Ramadan basket the night before Ramadan begins, which consists usually of Ramadan PJs, a book, and a treat like Ramadan shaped Rice Krispies.”
3. Read books by Muslim authors
“For Ramadan we have two traditions and it includes books!” says Isra Hashmi of Muslims in Kidlit, and a mother of three. “I create a special reading nook with a basket full of books that are Ramadan related for my younger kids and books about the Prophet (pbuh) for my teen. I put pillows down and a festive rug and twinkly lights, to make the corner inviting.”
Hashmi’s other tradition is reading a book aloud, each family member taking turns reading a chapter. “It's a beautiful, simple tradition that allows us all to slow down, reconnect with each other, and talk about what is most important in the month,” she shares.
If you have a younger child who’s just beginning to learn about the holiday, great options abound. There’s Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, about about a girl who worries about what her classmates will think about her fasting. The Gift of Ramadan celebrates perseverance. Raihanna’s First Time Fasting focuses on Ramadan’s charitable aspects. The tenderhearted Amira’s Picture Day follows young Amira who hopes to both join in her class photo and enjoy her family’s Eid celebrations at the masjid. And It’s Ramadan, Curious George follows the famed monkey—and his friends like the Man in the Yellow Hat—as he has fun celebrating the first day of Ramadan with his friend Kareem.
4. Make a gingerbread mosque
Natasha Khan Kazi of the site IslamiMommy enjoys making a gingerbread mosque with her family each year. She uses graham crackers, Trader Joe’s meringues, Hershey’s kisses, Trader Joe’s baton wafers, pre-made icing, and sprinkles to make a mouthwatering, extremely impressive creation.
Meanwhile, Faaiza Elias Osman of the site Modest Munchies makes an edible chocolate cookie masjid with her family each Ramadan. “It’s become something the kids ask for every year!” she says of the DIY masjid featuring brown royal icing, with free cookie templates available on her site.
5. Fill a Ramadan calendar with treats
Part of the joy of Ramadan is the countdown until Eid, the three-day festival marking the end of the holy month. Make the countdown official— and interactive—with a Ramadan calendar designed to be filled with sweet treats, one for each day prior to Eid.
Ramadan calendars are available in lots of different styles and designs. This one from Star x Crescent includes a kids’ doodle journal and good-deed activity stickers.
You can rope your kids into treat-making by creating Ramadan-themed cookies together to place in the boxes, such as these kits from Majida Sweets.
And since dates are traditionally used to break the fast, take the sweet treats to the next level with a limited-edition gift box of organic California-grown medjool dates from Joolies.
6. Make giving back fun
As one of the five pillars of Islam, charity is an essential part of Ramadan. Many families instill charity as a value among their children year ‘round, and try to emphasize its importance during the holidays.
In fact, nearly all of the parents we spoke with mentioned encouraging charity during Ramadan. Gutta spends time packing food boxes together with her family to take to food banks. Al-Tamimi helps her children choose a few toys and books to donate.
For Susannah Aziz, author of the upcoming book Halal Hotdogs, the holiday is a chance for meaningful discussions. “We have the kids each take turns choosing a topic and leading a small halaqa conversation together during salatul taraweeh while having dessert. The topics center around giving back to charity and helping others—and being nice to siblings!”
For Khalil, creating charity jars is another clever way to get her kids excited about giving back. “Some Ramadan, we set jars out and write down little good deed notes to do. They can be simple things like helping parents set up for dinner or writing a nice note to a friend or donating canned food to a shelter.”
On multiple occasions, Khalil, friends, and their families baked treats for the fire station, packed food for local refugees, and make food for the local Ronald McDonald house. “We called it Ramadan kids club!” she says.
7. Dress up for a family photo
Susannah Aziz, author of the forthcoming children’s book Halal Hot Dogs, cherishes her family’s yearly quality time during the month of Ramadan. “We enjoy time together, with time during pandemic being extra special.”
Each year to celebrate the end of the holiday, Aziz and her family all dress up and then take a family Eid picture together. “There is always a family Eid pic, even with my cats,” Aziz says. “Ramadan gives my kids the best memories with their cousins.”
Whether the outfits are matching or a mish-mosh of styles, family photos during Ramadan are a time-honored Eid tradition. “We take a ‘Ramadan pic’ every year!” agrees Hashmi.
8. Do Ramadan-themed activities together
The chance to teach Islamic lessons while spending quality family time together is an irresistible double bonus of Ramadan. Activities such as coloring books and games will make it fun for kids while they explore the true meaning behind the holiday.
“This Ramadan my son is 3-years-old and it will be the first Ramadan we do activities and learn more about it,” says Nasreen Al Tamimi, who does daily activities with her son that she finds on Etsy and has already purchased age-appropriate books about the Prophet (pbuh).
“There’s a range of activities other mothers have created and are selling though their Etsy shops that I have found through Instagram,” Al Tamimi explains, citing coloring sheets and a Ramadan matching card game created by The Little Bulbul. “Every day of Ramadan there is an image which we have to find on the sheet and color. We will also read one story about the prophet and one Quran story every day.” The coloring sheets prompt that day’s subject and act as the exciting countdown to Eid.
9. Give out Eid money
Known as Eidi, it’s common for older relatives to give money to younger family members to celebrate the Eid-al-Fitr holiday. Some families choose this custom in place of Eid presents, while others treat their (lucky!) kids with both.
“The night before Eid, we put on mehndi and pick out special clothes, while the day of, we hand out money to kid relatives and give gifts to our friends and family,” explains Saira Mir.
Whatever your traditions, new or old, we wish you a very peaceful, joyful Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak!
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Ramadan decorations and kid-friendly activities