by Sumaya Bezrati
(Special recipe included at the end.)
As a fairly new mother with a toddler in tow, I have thought long and hard about Ramadan traditions that will instill a sense of love for the Holy month in my children. It can be hard living in a predominately non-Muslim society, where sometimes the spirit of Ramadan isn’t always felt. Especially, if you are like my husband and I who are also isolated from family. For this reason, we have decided to create our own traditions that inshAllah we hope to pass on to our children.
One of the first ways one can tell that Ramadan is drawing near is when I deep clean my entire house. I spend roughly two weeks doing pretty much nothing but cleaning. I scrub the walls, clean behind kitchen appliances and furniture, sweep and organize the garage, clean out the cars, and even tidy up the yard. Not a cabinet, closet or drawer is passed without me sorting through all of its contents, throwing away things, donating others and organizing the rest. One reason I do this is because the fasts are long and hard for me, and the last thing I want to be doing is extra housework. If I deep clean my house right before Ramadan then minimal upkeep chores are needed throughout the month while I fast. Additionally, Ramadan is a time of renewal and spiritual reflection. I believe that in a clean environment without extra clutter, it helps one to rid themselves of the clutter in their mind and focus on more important things.
After cleaning the house, I put up decorations. These include banners, balloons, lights, fresh flowers, candles, special duaas that I want to learn, and of course the prayer time table on the refrigerator. My daughter was in awe when she saw the house decorated for Ramadan. I do crafts with her, such as special Ramadan coloring pages, and this year I even made a mosque sadaqa box. Using a shoebox and toilet paper roll, I covered them with construction paper and allowed my daughter to decorate her mosque. I then enshrined it with a verse from the Qur’an that talks about the benefits of giving charity and all family members put their sadaqa in this mosque. At the end of the month I will donate the money to a mosque that is trying to be built in our community inshAllah. My daughter loves this. Everyday when I bring money for her to put in, her face lights up as she drops sadaqa into the masjid.
Additionally, I went to the local 99 cents store and bought 30 small gifts for my daughter that I knew would delight her. A harmonica one night, bubbles, coloring book, watercolor set, etc. Each night we allow her to open one small gift for Ramadan. In addition to these, I have other ideas for family traditions to include as my daughter gets a little older and we have more children inshAllah.
In regards to food, before the month I figure out what I am going to cook every night for iftar and pencil in the meals on a calender. These range as my family loves international cuisine and our dishes reflect that. We have themed nights where we might have North African food one night, Indian the next, and Italian on the third. However, something special that I always make for iftar is an appetizer dish popular in Yemen and the other Arabian Peninsula countries called Sambosa (some Arabs call it Sambosek) It is kind of an Arab take on an Indian Samosa. I make them in a huge batch the week before Ramadan and freeze them. That way, each night I take out just a few to fry up as something to eat after dates that will hold your hunger over from Maghrib prayer before the big meal comes. They are delicious and always a big hit with my family and guests alike. Please enjoy this recipe from my kitchen to yours. Have a blessed Ramadan everyone!
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro
1 serano pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 package phyllo dough strips (thawed)
1 lb ground beef
Chop the onion and garlic and saute them in oil
Add the ground beef and cook for a few minutes, breaking up the chunks
Add the chopped cilantro, chopped pepper salt and pepper
Cook, stirring until the meat is browned
Take the mixture off the heat to cool
At the end of each phyllo strip place one spoonful of beef
Fold the bottom left corner up to the right side
Then fold the bottom right corner up to the left side
Continue in this triangle pattern until you reach the end of the strip
Seal it by dipping your finger in a little olive oil
Fry as needed in vegetable or canola oil
Serve hot at iftar time with your favorite chutney/ salsa or use the recipe below for my homemade salsa
2 small tomatoes (or 1 large)
1 serano pepper
1 clove garlic
3-5 tablespoons of cilantro chopped
Put all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until your desired consistency.