In the past I have struggled to keep pace with my newly created Ramadan traditions. For the last three years, my girls and I have done a Ramadan countdown calendar. But the calendar often fell victim to forgetful Mama syndrome…suddenly it was time for lights out but “Waaaait, the calendar!” my girls would wail. Or other times three days had passed and we had forgotten about it. I just wasn’t very good about staying on top of it daily. So this year, I intended to skip the calendar and develop a more manageable ritual instead. But the girls had other plans for me as they asked where the calendar was on the first day of Ramadan. We’ll just have to play catch up now!
The greatest challenge for me with Ramadan and Eid is that Christmas, which we also celebrate, Valentine’s Day and Halloween all figure so prominently in the minds of my kids. Every year I brainstorm and google new traditions to add to our Ramadan rituals, so the holiday becomes just as special for my children. This is new ground for me as I didn’t grow up celebrating Ramadan as a child–I don’t have a pool of ideas to draw from, but luckily there is so much inspiration out there.
I came across this adorable idea for a Ramadan gift basket for kids on Little Life of Mine. While I loved every item she had in her basket, we already owned a bunch of Ramadan books, as well as special cookie cutters and a countdown calendar. I also struggled with the idea of giving them a gift as it contributes to the overpowering sense of materialism that surrounds us in the U.S. and accompanies every mainstream holiday. While the essence and beauty of Ramadan is its intense focus on spirituality, quite the opposite of the material world, it’s also a reality that gifts and sweets are the things that get my kids most excited about holidays, no matter how much I dislike that fact.
So taking my inspiration from Little Life of Mine‘s gift baskets, I sought to do something similar, while making the gifts as unmaterialistic as possible but still exciting. Does that sound like the impossible? No toys I decided and nothing they can’t use in some way. Here’s what I came up with: homemade art books.
Every year at Christmas my children’s favorite present is not a toy but an art book with blank pages that I create for them. So I decided to shift the art book ritual from Christmas to Ramadan and give them art books and new markers for the first day of Ramadan. And excited they were! I also included some star-shaped Ikea string lights, one for each child, so they could decorate their room how they would like for Ramadan, as well as a few chocolates.
Every night at bedtime they have been drawing in their books, and insist they have to draw even while we read. My older daughter (who is seven) prefers to write in hers while my younger daughter (almost six) prefers to sketch.
To make your own homemade art books, it’s simple. The quickest and easiest way is to select a piece of your child’s art that’s been stuffed away somewhere as you haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. This is your cover. Of course, you can also let them draw and craft something new as well! I love that my older daughter drew an angel (or perhaps it was a fairy) as we have been reading about angels this Ramadan. On a separate sheet of paper, write the name of your child on the cover as well as the date. You can get creative and cut out letters from magazines but if you’re short on time as I was this year, skip this step and just type up the label on the computer or write it by hand. Don’t forget to date it so in years to come you can know how old your child was then. Grab a bunch of blank white paper and head over to the nearest copy shop to laminate the cover and bind the book. That’s it! And when friends arrive for iftar (the meal to break the fast), my girls can’t wait to show them their art books.