In contact with others, we learn how to communicate, be tolerant, live lives through the eyes of others, reduce stereotypes, be less judgmental, etc.
If you are in The Gambia during Easter and Ramadan, you have an amazing opportunity to know more about how Christians and Muslims celebrate holidays in peace and tolerance.
This year, Easter will occur on Sunday, April 17, 2021.
Lent has begun on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022 — also known as Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, which is traditionally a somber holiday, a church's priest or pastor will dip their finger into a tray of ashes and spread them on congregants' foreheads in the shape of a cross. While doing this, they'll say, “from dust you came and from dust you will return.” The ashes are made by burning palm branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday (this year, Palm Sunday falls on April 10).
Lent is 40 days long, not including Sundays. The number 40 has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation - most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4:2).
Lent ends three days before Easter Sunday on Thursday, April 14, 2022.
Schools, public institutions and some of the stores in the country will be closed from Thursday 14th of April because Christians will break their 40-day fast on Friday and then they will devote themselves to prayer and visiting churches from Friday to Monday.
Although Christians make up only 10% of the population, everything is closed during the holidays, so believers can go to mass and prepare for the celebrations in peace. This is religious tolerance and an explanation of peace, which the people of this country have been enjoying for a long time. All this is due to the efforts of people creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and love among the Gambians, regardless of ethnic differences. The religious tolerance in the country is high and we are proud of that.
Dyeing Easter eggs is not common in The Gambia. In some churches, they give eggs to poor people (everyone gets one or two eggs). They organize various Easter competitions on Saturdays and bless people with holy water, which they take home in order to bless their food and living space. This is an ancient ritual of purification.
The dessert, which they prepare for the Easter holidays, is a thick drink made of baobab, rice flour, ground rice and sugar called Naan Mburu. They give it out to relatives, neighbours and friends as a way of giving alms. Usually, during the day, along with the drink, people eat the same food as always. The children receive new clothes and shoes if it’s possible.
May the Easter celebration be merry, satisfactory, full of sunshine, laughter for all of you, who celebrate! May it strengthen the belief in kindness, which never ends!
May all children of the world have Easter holidays blessed with peace, hope and love!
Ramadan 2022 should begin on the evening of Friday, 1st of April.
If you are in The Gambia during the holy month of Ramadan, you have an amazing opportunity to know more about it.
International media often presents Muslim countries as one single story that generalizes the entire population, cultures, and customs. But the fact is that every country, region, tribe, and family have its own way and if we learn from each other and respect each other, we can live in harmony.
The best way to know more about certain holiday and their rituals is to spend time with Gambians and their families, taste traditional food and learn about the charity activities among families, neighbours, and strangers.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and a holy month when Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to sunset. Ramadan is also a month of introspection, prayer for Muslims, giving back and helping people. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three-day festival known as Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam's major holidays. Eid al-Fitr also called the "Festival of Breaking the Fast", is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (ṣawm).
Fasting between 29 days to 30 days from sunrise to sunset is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are not acutely or chronically ill, travelling, elderly, breastfeeding, diabetic, or menstruating.
The spiritual rewards of fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Accordingly, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink but also from tobacco products, sexual relations, and sinful behaviour, devoting themselves instead to salat (prayer) and recitation of the Quran.
Eid ul-Fitr, locally called Koriteh, marks the end of Ramadan and traditionally lasts for approximately three days.
A typical routine of a day that comes within that special time involves the following:
The festivities are characterised by thanking Allah (SWT) for his help and blessings through the successful completion of the month.
In The Gambia, parents and families focus on prayers and preparing food for the whole family. Children wear new dresses and shoes. Men usually attend early morning prayers in new kaftans. In the evening, all the country is celebrating in different ways. People attend concerts, local events and family gatherings. If a family can afford it, ram is killed and shared among neighbours and poor people.
One of the most significant points in Ramadan is Iftar. Iftar means breaking the day-long fast in the evening meal with which Muslims end their Ramadan fast at sunset.
They break the fast at the time of the call to prayer, called Maghrib. Traditionally but not mandatory, three dates are eaten to break the fast in emulation of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed, who broke his fast in this manner. Followed by drinking water or hot tea, this is the first part of the meal. After praying, the entire meal will be enjoyed and consumed.
Breaking the fast has special meaning followed by prayer, feelings of appreciation and thankfulness.
In The Gambia, Iftar is called ˝Ndogu˝. The family eats together at home. A carpet or a big mat on the floor serves as the dining space and the food is laid in the centre while the family sits around it.
Feeding someone with Iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and such was practised by prophet Muhammed. In The Gambia and the whole world, it is very common to share food with neighbours and relatives. Some companies and wealthy families will prepare Iftar and send it to the mosques every day where less privileged people come and break their fast. People are also able to contribute to iftars prepared by mosques.
Gambians prepare lots of food in Ramadan for the family from porridge, rice, sauce and other traditional Gambian dishes.
The fast begins with a pre-dawn meal called Sahur.
If you are in The Gambia during Ramadan, you can try to fast. It can be very meaningful and a great experience. Having Iftar with Gambians may be one of the most unique experiences.
You can also surprise the Gambian family with a bag of rice, oil, sugar or clothing. They will be delighted and thankful.
May this Ramadan be as bright as ever, bring joy, health and wealth to you.
May the light that we celebrate at Ramadan show us the way and lead us together on the path of peace and social harmony.
May this Holy month bring peace and blessings into your lives and homes.
Ramadan Kareem in advance to our followers, families, friends and all Muslims around the world!