by Sara Elhassan (@BSonblast)
"What is Ramadan?", she asked.
"Well, it's a Muslim hol-- no, that's not it. It's a, uuh, it's like a thing we do where we don't eat or drink for a month?"
"What, a whole month?! Not even water?!"
My teenage self didn't really know how to put Ramadan in terms that a non-Muslim would understand - mostly because I didn't know what to call it, either. Is it a holiday? Can a holiday last an entire month? Aren't holidays about doing the opposite of fasting?
Regardless of what you choose to call it, it's undeniable that Ramadan is a major event in the lives of Muslims every year. And while it of course remains a widely celebrated time in predominately Muslim countries, its presence isn't noticeable in the mainstream elsewhere, even in countries with large Muslim populations. So why is that?
We could argue that Muslim population sizes are still not significant enough for non-Muslim mainstream society and marketplace to take notice. But the numbers paint a different picture: in 2013, British supermarket chain Tesco achieved massive success in its Ramadan promotion, making £31 million during the month-long storewide campaign.
It could also be the pendulum of public opinion and the negative view of Muslims that is keeping companies from catering to the Muslim demographic. In 2011, Whole Foods became the first mainstream American supermarket chain to recognize Ramadan through an online promotion campaign in collaboration with the brand Saffron Road. But today, a quick search on their website has shown that, sadly, it's no longer happening.
Of course, that isn't to say that celebrating Ramadan has to be through capitalist means. But one can't deny the strong impact that visibility and mainstream acknowledgment can have - not only in terms of uplifting a marginalized community, but also in educating and changing public opinion and perception.
In the meantime, there are those out there striving to showcase Ramadan - the holiday - to the masses, including Valentina Canavesio-Mullick, creator of Ramadan Recipes. As she puts it: "When I started fasting with my husband during Ramadan, I went online to find a book of recipes I could plan for our Iftar meals, the meal with which Muslims break their fast at the end of the day. There are plenty of cookbooks for Christmas celebrations and Jewish holidays, but to my surprise, I could not find one for Ramadan, a celebration that is observed by 1.6 billion Muslims ever year."
Ramadan Recipes - aptly named - aims to collect recipes from Muslims all around the world. "More than just food though, I also seek to learn about the personal stories of these home cooks, and what Ramadan means to them."
So, how are you celebrating Ramadan? And speaking of which, have you checked out our #ASudaneseRamadan campaign on social media? You should, and see how Sudanese all around the world celebrate this month.