It’s celebration time when Muslims around the world anxiously wait for the first moon of the ninth Lunar month to appear in the sky. Traditionally, families used to gather in their backyards, or get on the nearest hillock or climb on the top of their homes and wait for the pencil-thin moon to appear on the horizon. These days, however, most of us find out whether the moon has been sighted or not from the Internet or TV channels. Here are some Ramadan traditions that are still going strong:
1. The Ramadan Cannon is something that a lot of countries still have. It was historically implemented as a tool to announce the official daily sunset for the people too far away to hear the Adhaan Al Maghreb announce the breaking of the fast. The tradition of using artillery to announce sunset has its roots in Egypt when it was governed by the Ottoman Khosh Qadam, more than two centuries ago. The story goes that Qadam had been given a cannon as a gift, which he was testing during the Iftar of the first day of Ramadan. When he fired it, the whole of Cairo reverberated with its sound and inhabitants thought that this was a new method of announcing sunset.
2. We live in the age of digital alarm clocks. However, this was not always so and the time was when this role was performed by a man going around from house to house in a particular community or area well before Suhoor time in the morning so that people could prepare themselves for the fast and the Fajr prayer. This man, known as the Musaharati, used to dutifully wake people every night in the month of Ramadan so that they could have their Suhoor and still exists in cities like Sidon (in Lebanon), Jerusalem and Cairo.
3. Incense burners are many sought-after items in Ramadan as the burning of incense within homes is considered a form of celebration in Ramadan. The scent, mixed with other concentrated Arabic perfumes, results in a fresh yet intimate smell that can only be associated with festivities and moments of joy. For the month of Ramadan and the three-day Eid that follows, burning incense is an aromatic way to celebrate the purity of the month.
4. On the culinary side, Ramadan is a feast! Ramadan cuisine is a type in itself and Iftar, in particular, has traditionally become a community event, involving family, friends, and neighbors. A variety of dishes are prepared according to the culinary traditions of each country though dates and a dessert made of vermicelli, milk, honey, and nuts is fast becoming a universal delicacy. Also popular across the world are fried goodies, fruit salads, dairy products, and popular local desserts.
5. In many Muslim and non-Muslim countries with large Muslim populations, markets close down in the evening to enable people to perform prayers and consume Iftar. These markets then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours.