Friday, July 15, 2011

RAMADAN and EID AL-FITR

Ramadan is almost here so here are some classroom/home activities for children to find out about Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr.  
BOOKS:
The collage illustrations in this book are SO gorgeous they are reason enough to get it.  It also would be a great book to have when looking at the phases of the moon.
Sweet Dates to Eat
Simple and easy to understand for younger children.
WEBSITES:  
The British Council has some great little animated stories.  

DATE TASTING:
There are many different types of dates and last year I bought in a selection for the children to sample.  They discussed the taste and texture and which they liked the most. They plotted their favourite on a graph that also had an option for 'I don't like dates!'

Muslims here in Dubai fast during the day for the month of Ramadan - no food, no drinks, no water.  Restaurants are closed all day. Sunset is the time for 'Iftar' - the breaking of the fast.  A traditional way to break fast is to nibble on dates and take water.  The dates provide energy without being too difficult to digest.  Dates are also a popular gift to give at this time of the year.


At home we tried a new type of date every day before our evening dinner.  Our favourite was the orange peel filled date. Yum!

LANTERN MAKING:
The arabic lantern is called a fanoos, but the children made simple paper lanterns.  Last year we did this activity at the beginning of the school year. The activity was excellent for allowing us to get a good idea of where each child was at in terms of fine motor development and the ability to follow simple instructions.  

MAKING GREETING CARDS:
Popular illustrations in the cards in the shops generally feature pictures of stars and a moon, or mosques at sunset.  Stars with 6 points should not be used. In English the cards usually say 'Ramadan Kareem' or 'Eid Mubarak'.  We created silhouettes of mosques or palm trees with darker paper on lighter paper and a touch of glitter to the moon.
GIVING TO CHARITY:
Last year at school we asked the children to donate a shoe box gift for the very poor workers who live in working camps here.  School families were asked to put together a collection of useful items such as disposable razors and shaving cream, socks, sweet treats, soap, toothbrush etc. into a shoebox.  The shoebox was then wrapped and were taken and handed out to the workers for Eid Al-Fitr.  My daughter loved putting together items in the shoebox and it was a great way to get her (and the other children) thinking about the hard life that others live and how fortunate we are.  

SOME GREAT BLOGS/WEBSITES WITH IDEAS:

WHAT IS RAMADAN?:
Ramadan is expected to start on the 1st of August this year although the official start cannot be confirmed until the sighting of the crescent moon.  Ramadan lasts for a lunar month and is followed by a three day celebration - Eid Al-Fitr (the festival of fast breaking).  As Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar the date changes each year.

I am not Muslim, but have been living on and off in the Middle East for a total of 8 years.  Each year I learn something new about Ramadan.  I suspect that in each culture, and probably family, there are variations in how Ramadan is observed, just as there are different approaches to celebrating Christmas and Easter in the Christian (and even non Christian) homes.  

As I understand it, Ramadan is a period of personal reflection and spiritual renewal.  Cleansing the body, mind and spirit.  Fasting is observed during the daylight hours.  The act of fasting cleans the body but also reminds one of the suffering of those less fortunate. Fasting is about patience, perseverance, self-discipline, sacrifice, compassion and sympathy. During Ramadan there is a focus on reading and listening to the Qur'an. The mosques holds special night prayers - a sort of a "sounds of Ramadan" that we don't hear every day.  Doing good deeds and refraining from doing anything harmful as well as giving 'zakat' (charity) is an important part of the observation of Ramadan.

Ramadan is followed by Eid Al-Fitr.  Families come together to share meals.  Children often get new clothes and are given presents or money. 

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