Reminding me very much of Advent calendars (probably not the desired association!), these children’s Ramadan calendars are made of silk and have thirty pockets, one for each day of Ramadan. Each 3” square pocket has a star button, and every evening, children mark the passing of another day of the month of Ramadan by looking inside the pocket for a tiny treat (gifts, candies, notes, wee toys) placed there by their parents, and fastening the button so the star shows.
It’s a lovely way to involve young children in the observation of Ramadan and to make the month more special for them. As a convert, I never experienced Ramadan in my childhood, but Neman (my husband) was brought up Muslim, and he says he would have loved this idea as a kid. (Also, he can generally be counted on to be in favour of anything involving noms and toys.) I'm sure, if I had been a Muslim child, I would have loved it too. There are lots of ways you could personalize this tradition for your family: for example, you could include a short piece of scripture, maybe one or two ayat of the Qur'an; or for a child who's learning the Arabic alphabet, maybe a little note featuring one letter per day with a treat (a picture, a candy, or tiny toy) that corresponds to that letter.
The calendars are made by Khadija O’Connell of Barakah Life, a company based in the Bay Area of California. (Barakah means blessing in Arabic.) In addition to selling products online, Barakah Life offers sewing and crafts classes for children and adults, art camps for children, and event décor.
I read about these calendars on a Muslim blog last year (sorry, I can’t remember which one or I’d give credit) and sent out the link to most of my cousins who have young kids. One of them was so taken with the idea and the product that she immediately ordered one for each of her boys. She showed them to me when they arrived, and I was impressed with how well-made and attractive they are, and made a mental note to write about them for Ramadan 2011. They're $40, which, for the quality of materials and work involved, is a steal.
There are lots of colours available, and you can have your child’s name embroidered on the heading along the top (although this takes some extra time, and given how close we are to Ramadan--it's not even six weeks away--may not be feasible if you want a calendar for this year). If you’re crafty, you could embroider the name yourself, or otherwise think of creative ways to put a child's name on the header. But if you want a calendar in time for Ramadan, better order soon.
Check out Barakah Life’s blog here: Barakah Life Handmade. The blog has lots of ideas for party decorations, favours, paper crafts and so on. Khadija also has an Etsy shop (although she doesn’t seem to have anything in stock right now). I really like her ideas for party decorations and paper crafts, and look forward to seeing what other products she might bring out. And check out this cool collaboration between Khadija and "calligraffiti" genius el Seed: Calligraphy Pillow--I love it!
I've been looking at my piles of crafting supplies and thinking of getting rid of them, because since I went back to school, I never have time to use them, but looking through the various projects on the Barakah Life sites really makes me want to hang onto them. But if I didn't have time during my undergrad, I really doubt I'm going to during grad school.
The Hajj seems to get bigger every year, and more layers of complexity are added by technology and other factors of globalization. It's fascinating to contrast the photo series above with something like these photos of Hajj from a 1953 issue of National Geographic, not just in terms of what has changed but also what hasn't. And speaking of change, we found this video of proposed structural changes to the Grand Mosque (in order to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims) quite impressive. There will probably be a lot of resistance to such changes in certain quarters, but the problem of crowd management must be taken quite seriously. The King of Saudi Arabia and his government have a huge responsibility to both the past and future in developing the area around the Ka'aba (not one we'd personally be eager to shoulder).
And if you go through all these images, and are still hungry for a little more on the Hajj, check out CBC reporter Muhammad Lila's Hajj blog that he's keeping on The Toronto Star website.
Eid Mubarak everyone! Since we are taking the day off to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, we're just going to share with you a few links to one of our favourite features on the web: the Boston Globe's "The Big Picture" series, a fabulous collection of photojournalism. For the last three years they've covered Ramadan around the world in all its diversity. We always look forward to seeing each year's installment. Most of these are quite stunning and some are simply spectacular. Don't even try to look at these on some teeny-tiny screen on a handheld device: get thee to the biggest monitor you can find, and really savour them.