News & Views

Holidays Around the World – Ramadan

Men praying during Ramadan at the Shrine of Ali or “Blue Mosque” in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan

Holidays Around the World!

Celebrate Ramadan with HIAS PA

As part of HIAS PA’s “Holidays Around the World” series, we are exploring holidays which are celebrated widely around the world, but which might not be as well-known in the United States. Today is Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan. Naem, a HIAS PA client, is here to teach us about how his family celebrates Ramadan in Afghanistan and in the US.

What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. As Muslims, we are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam during the month of Ramadan. We begin our fast (sawm) at dawn and end it at sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

During this month, we eat two main meals every day: suhoor (served pre-dawn) and iftar (served at sunset). Suhoor should be a hearty meal to provide us the energy we need throughout a day of fasting. Suhoor ends when the sun rises and fajr, or Morning Prayers, begins.

The end of Ramadan is called Eid-al-Fitr. This year, Ramadan began on the evening of April 12th and ends on the evening of May 12th.

How did you and your family celebrate Ramadan in Afghanistan?
Ramadan is celebrated in a very special way in Afghanistan. People start planning at least two weeks before Ramadan starts. We do a big shopping trip to prepare for Ramadan because people will not have much time to go shopping every day, or there might have a big demand in the market so we cannot find good quality food. We wake up early in the morning and have to stop eating and drinking before the actual sunrise, and start eating and drinking after the actual sunset.


Bolani is a common meal eaten in Afghanistan during Ramadan.

How do you and your family celebrate Ramadan in the United States?
Celebration of Ramadan really doesn’t change regardless of where you are. Ramadan has a real culture that you should follow anywhere in the world. People call this month a month of worship and regrets. People who might have committed crimes or sins and regret them now can recover their mental health by worshiping and praying during Ramadan.

What are any special rituals that you do to celebrate Ramadan?
There are rituals such as making or cooking special foods during this month. People start going to mosques to pray. People take homemade foods to the mosque to share with others and break the fast of others after the evening prayer to get more rewards from GOD.

What foods do you eat to celebrate Ramadan?
All Halal foods, but most likely cooked in special ways. More beverages (tea, water, juices, sodas, milk). Most people like to eat bolani (pita stuffed with potatoes and green onions), and manto and ashak (both of which are dumplings) while breaking the fast after the real sunset or evening prayer.

Dates are the first thing people eat to break their fast when the sun sets during Ramadan.

Is there traditional clothing for Ramadan?
Some people grow a beard or wear a hat and women wear more hijabs to show off that they respect and obey Islamic law, but I think everything depends on our hearts, genuinely and in real life. We have to be honest with ourselves and respect humanity. Islam is all about humanity. Ramadan is all about reminding everybody of humanity, kindness, humbleness, and truthfulness.

What is your favorite thing about Ramadan?
My favorite thing is when I am starving at evening time and see everything ready on the table to eat. I also feel so good and relaxed when praying because I feel that I am talking to GOD directly during this holy month.

What is your favorite memory of celebrating Ramadan?
My best memory: Once upon a time when we were living in a village back in the 1990s, at evening time, we kids were all sent out to play and to not disturb or annoy parents and other adults at home at the time of breaking the fast. So all the kids were coming out in the street or playground and we were having lots of good times and fun. I can’t forget those days and I know I can’t “Ctrl + Z” (undo) my life to repeat those days – I miss it!

What would you like people to know about Ramadan?

I would like the people to know that Ramadan is not only for keeping you hungry or thirsty. It’s all about a new start of being a good human. A new commitment. Be honest to yourself and people around you.

Halal meals such as kabobs are eaten during Ramadan.

We are grateful to Naem for sharing about Ramadan! Look out for our next “Holidays Around the World” and learn more about the holidays that hold great importance to the immigrants we serve.