Can you go without food or water from dawn to sunset? This is exactly what many Muslim adults do during Ramadan. More importantly, Muslims try to experience what the less fortunate go through every day and practice good habits and deeds, such as giving more to charity and practicing self-control. Fasting is usually broken with water, dates or milk before the start of the evening meal, called iftar.
Ramadan began on Sunday, June 5th and came to an end on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016. The next day, on Wednesday, July 6th many children and families woke up to Eid Al Fitr (feast of breaking the fast) to put on their finest clothes and many girls around the world washed their hands to reveal the beautiful design dyed with henna. On the morning of Eid, many people go to the mosque for prayer, as well as visiting friends and families.
This year at Boston Children’s Museum, we continued with making iftar plates for the needy, and the Ramadan fanoos (lanterns) that are lit up by children in some countries to welcome Ramadan. In the Ifar plates activity, visitors are asked to create a delicious plate of food, using pictures from food magazines and pasting them on a paper plate. Visitors also had the option to take the plate home or leave it on our Iftar picnic-style feast for the less fortunate. Through this activity we exhibited the power of sharing and caring for each other, such as buying a homeless person a meal, providing a helping hand to someone in need, or even just smiling.
In the lantern activity, visitors were invited to make lanterns out of shiny paper. Visitors were also invited to learn about the common light up lanterns that many children carry during the evening and early night to welcome Ramadan, as well as express their excitement that Ramadan has finally arrived. The lantern making activity has been popular with visitors, and even adults sometimes can’t hold their excitement and decide to make their own. It’s not surprising to see children and adults carrying lanterns throughout the museum, when the activity is taking place.
To complement each of these activities, I bring in cultural clothes from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, that many people wear on the day of Eid. These include children’s clothes as well as bride’s dresses from Afghanistan. I also bring in various perfumes and colognes popular in many Muslim majority countries. There are also several prayer beads and regular bead necklaces. Finally, there are always some children’s books about Ramadan that families, who are interested in learning more about Ramadan, could sit down and enjoy together.
What I have found amazing through these activities is that visitors are surprised at the similarities that Islam shares with other faiths. For example, fasting is also practiced in Christianity, Judaism and many other faiths. It is priceless to hear the excitement and interactions families are engaging in as they take part in the activity. More importantly, one comes to realize the power of the Museum in bringing children and families from many different walks of life together, to engage in what we all hold dear to our hearts – caring for each other and doing our part to make this world a better place for all.