The end of Ramadan is in sight. Traditionally, the Muslims close the fasting period with the Sugar Feast. This year it can take place again without specific corona measures. Four young people testify about how they have experienced the past few weeks.
The strict measures around meetings have been cancelled since March, so that people can enjoy each other’s presence again without worries. For the Brussels Muslim community, this means that after the lockdowns they can go back to the essence of Ramadan, namely reflection and togetherness.
Told BRUZZ “I notice a big difference between celebrating Ramadan during Corona and how I celebrate it now. For the past two years it was just with my family. We could not invite extra family because of the measures that applied and we also had to be careful that my grandmother did not get infected.”
“Personally, I find it much more fun to spend Ramadan with a lot of people around. I work for Cassonade, a social restaurant, for which I organise and coordinate the events. With Corona we haven’t been able to organise anything for a long time, we were not allowed to get together and I thought that was a shame. Because if you’ve been fasting with a lot of people for years, it was depressing during corona to celebrate in a limited circle.
This year we were finally able to organise the communal iftars again at Cassonade. For the first time in two years, an iftar of 80 people could take place again. It was nice to see that people were happy. Most even brought a dish to share with the other invitees.
My personal favourite was Easter meets Ramadan, because it was there that people of different religions gathered for an iftar. We also invite more family at home now that the weather is allowed. I find that more pleasant.”
“At the events of my work I see that everyone is happy to celebrate the fasting month together again. Here and there people are still careful and they still give fists instead of hugs, for example. Although the end of Ramadan is in sight, I have not yet thought about how I will celebrate it. Usually I do that with my family and a dinner is organised in the neighbourhood. I probably also have to work, so there won’t be a lot of celebrating.”
“During the first lockdown we couldn’t and weren’t allowed to go outside, so I spent a lot of time inside and time moved more slowly for me. That also made it difficult to fast, I thought. When you go out to go to school, to work, to do hobbies or to see friends, time passes much faster and it is ‘faster’ time for iftar again.”
“I spent most of Ramadan during the first lockdown in my room. During the week I fasted in my room and then it was allowed to break Ramadan with my roommates and eat together. We were allowed to meet in small bubbles, but we had to stay in the same circle of friends. Just letting people come by was not possible because of the strict checks that were in the room. At the weekend I would go home to visit my family.”
“Now that we can fast again without measures, I sometimes still have the feeling that I am doing Ramadan in a serious pandemic. In our room we still have the habit of staying inside during iftar and eating there, while we used to make more arrangements to eat something outside. My roommates and I know we can go back outside, yet that habit is so entrenched in our heads that we often stay inside. On the other hand, it is more comfortable and cheaper for our wallet to eat in a flat.”
“With the end of Ramadan in sight, I don’t think people will be reluctant to come together. It will probably be well celebrated with family and friends. Most people are now less afraid. The pandemic is already a thing of the past, you notice that by how people interact with each other again and how quickly they come together again.”
Rami lives with his parents, brothers and sisters in Neder-over-Heembeek. In total there are nine of the family, but the two oldest children have already moved out of the house. Every year they fast together during Ramadan. “Fasting during the corona period and fasting now is a difference, mainly in terms of family atmosphere. In the first lockdown it felt more like a holiday because everyone was home. We stayed awake longer together because no one had anywhere to go.”
“My siblings had online classes and I had to go to work alone. This gave everyone more time with us and we spent it together. Now that we are no longer in lockdown during Ramadan, that has somewhat disappeared. The only family moment is during dinner and after that everyone rushes to get ready in time for the next school or work day. not like that. Then we had to break our fast around 9-10 pm, which meant that we sat outside longer in the evening. There was just less pressure and less stress.”
“I personally think that no habits from the corona period have stuck for the fasting month. I do notice that society is running at full speed again and that there is again a drive to perform, so that there is less time after the iftar to relax. This may change in the coming years if we are allowed to interrupt the fast earlier in the day and thus have more time after the iftar. Now it is often late at night and there is not much time left to do things.”
“I notice on the street that people are still cautious, but you can feel and see that the communal experience of Ramadan is gradually returning. I see this in the fact that neighbours are once again exchanging dishes, giving snacks and that people are also starting to pray in the mosque again. This is happening more and more every day. That is why I also think that everything will erupt at the end of Ramadan. We were unable to fully celebrate the previous two Sugar Fests due to the measures that applied. Now that all the measures have been stopped, I think people will compensate for that for the past two years.”
“Two years ago the fast was not allowed to be broken in a large group, now it is possible again. In terms of conviviality, it is much better without measures. For example, we were not allowed to go to the mosque during corona and that is something I deeply regretted. You could still pray in your bubble, but that is not the same as going to the Holy House and praying with other Muslims. During the lockdown it was easier to pray at the fixed times, now that is more difficult as people go back to work and pursue hobbies. I’ll make up for that at another time.”
“On the one hand, Ramadan was more enjoyable during the lockdown, in the sense that you had more time to meditate and be with your family. Then you could fully focus on the faith and the people in your bubble. On the other hand, the fasting month is now, without measures, more fun because there is more social life again. I am mainly thinking of the people who lived alone during the lockdown and who therefore also had to spend Ramadan alone. I also sometimes break my fast with friends or with my colleagues at work. Now that I can see people again, I want to enjoy it as much as possible.”
“A habit that only started during the lockdown and is still alive at home today is preparing the iftar together. Before that, my parents always took care of the meal, but because we were all at home, we all helped and it became a family activity.”
“The end of Ramadan is in sight, which means we start baking cookies, wrapping presents, putting up decorations and finding the right outfit for the party. The celebration of the Sugar Feast differs from family to family. Some will still be careful not to make the vulnerable sick. For me, this year it will be a nice gathering in a small group of family and friends.”