A month of giving
This year, the first day of Ramadan coincided with Memorial Day weekend. I thought this was quite significant, considering both occasions had a few things in common - such as conflict, sacrifice, appreciation, and remembrance. Ramadan is considered a month of giving, forgiving, staying humble, and praying for those who have passed, as well as those who are among us. It's all about abstaining from temptations, food & drinks, while instead, dedicating the days to empathy for the less-fortunate, to prayers and to self-reflection. This time is truly about our internal struggles. Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring those people who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their all, often their very lives. Ramadan is an opportunity to reflect on the struggles of our day to day lives. Though these are two different occasions, they both deal with conflicts on different levels.
As a spouse of a veteran, my husband and I try to make the Memorial Day weekend special, with a BBQ gathering for families and friends. Instead of a daytime BBQ in the heat of the day, we grilled indoors and had a feast at sunset for those who were fasting. Several times throughout the month of Ramadan, families and friends gather together to break their fast in the evenings, during Iftar. It usually consists of feasting with a spread of ethnic delicacies. Given the day-long fast and how depleted of energy one can become, doing anything extravagant with decor after all that food prep can be challenging. So, I wanted to keep the decor inspiration simple, but sweet. In the spirit of these occasions, I've put together something reflecting both Memorial Day and Ramadan. I hope you can find some inspiration for your next Iftar gathering or dinner, in a color scheme or theme of your choice.
I wanted something that wasn’t overly representative of the patriotic colors, to avoid making it too cliche, but with more of a subtle presence on this Ramadan tablescape. Considering the nightly prayers and Iftar during sunset, the evenings in the month of Ramadan are highly significant and strongly representative of this “holy” month. The blue color symbolizes both occasions, The color blue along with the presence of stars and the moon depict the night sky of Ramadan. Starting with Iftar, most prayers are offered at night and may last till pre-dawn. At HomeGoods, I've found these perfect placemats with a hint of red. I used them as runners, atop the blue and white striped HomeGoods tablecloth.
Representing the red, white, and blue color scheme, we have DIY red-velvet cupcakes with cream-cheese, blueberries, and star-toppers. The DIY crescent-moon cupcake toppers signify the new moon, the sighting of which highlights the first day of fasting. Hurricane lamps or lanterns are symbolic of Ramadan. Different Islamic countries have different representations of them. I added the lanterns, which recall the festive feel of Ramadan in many Muslim countries. These lanterns remind me of Bangladesh, where I saw guards carried these to illuminate their paths. As they strolled through the streets in the darkness of the pre-dawn to wake up the neighborhood for Sehri - a meal to begin fasting for the day. That's a memory that's hard to forget.
After abstaining from food for an entire day, and unable to satiate their thirst with even a drop of water, it's no surprise that everyone counts the seconds until they can take that first sip of a drink. Even in those last few moments before the sun sets, they allow themselves to be challenged, by sitting patiently in front of a table filled with all types of aromatic foods. They know that every second they wait is a moment of weakness overcome... later to be thankful for not only what's before them on the table, but also for what they have in life.
Muslims traditionally break their fast with ripe dates. Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients and are a good source of potassium. Homemade lemonade and yogurt "lassi" are common Iftari drinks in South Asian families. Although fried finger-foods are prominent and traditional, one can always cleanse their throats with a juicy watermelon, potassium rich bananas, or mangoes and dates for that sugar craving.
I hope this will inspire you to throw your next Iftar or dinner party. Thank you so much for reading. Happy Ramadan to those of you who are observing and celebrating!
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