‘Is this enough?’: The fret of preparing a fast-breaking feast
When you’ve spent the day fasting, there’re few things better than sitting down to a dinner table laden with food.
But when you’re the one in charge of preparing the feast, that can prompt a moment of doubt.
Cengiz and Aylin Altinors with their family breaking fast together at sundown during Ramadan. Credit:Justin McManus
“You look at your dinner table and think: is this going to be enough?” said Aylin Altinors, of the daily rhythm of feeding her family during the holy month of Ramadan.
Almost 1.8 billion people across the globe, and 240,000 Victorians, celebrate Ramadan. During that time, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.
Iftar, a meal shared after sunset to break the day’s fast, is an important part of Ramadan and is normally a time to bring people together.
That was naturally difficult in the depths of last year’s pandemic in Australia, with common rituals and traditions cancelled or held at a smaller scale. This year things are getting back to normal for Mrs Altinors and her husband Cengiz.
“My parents live next door, so we’ll go to my parents [or] they’ll come to us and we’ll sit around the table and break the fast,” said Mr Altinors.
On Friday night the couple will host Home Iftar Dinner, an initiative by the Australian Intercultural Foundation to introduce Melburnians from all walks of life to Ramadan. The Altinors expect to feed around 10 Muslim and non-Muslim guests.
During Ramadan Muslims are encouraged to reserve time for prayer, practise good deeds and shake off bad habits.
Ramadan is also about celebrating the community, something that was missing last year.
“The pandemic really isolated us from everything,” said Mr Altinors.
And while they’re grateful to open their home to guests again, Mrs Altinors said the quiet celebrations of last year offered more time for reflection during the holy month.
“You save more time not preparing food for others, that you can reserve for spiritual time.”
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the Eid festival. The couple said it is an exciting time for their children who will visit older Muslims, share tea and eat sweets.
“The phone doesn’t do it. You go there, you see them and catch up over tea or coffee with sweets or baklava,” said Mr Altinors. “It’s a different way to engage.”
Unlike last year, mosques are open again and worshippers are allowed to visit but must follow COVID-19 protocols such as wearing a mask and socks and bringing a prayer mat from home.
Ayman Islam, general manager of the Islamic Council of Victoria, says he expects more of a community element to Ramadan this year now that restrictions have eased.
“We were very fortunate to celebrate Ramadan last year, given the context of the pandemic,” he said.
“Although we were isolated from one another, we were still able to spend time with our families at home which is an important aspect of Ramadan.”
While sermons and nightly prayers moved to online, Mr Islam said he and other worshippers are grateful to return to the mosque.
“It’s at the heart of a Muslim’s existence to be a part of a community [and] the ability to connect,” he said. “I know we were fortunate to connect digitally, but it’s not the same.”
Mr Islam says Ramadan gives worshippers the opportunity to reconnect with their faith and take the time to improve themselves through charity.
“It allows you to refocus on the things that get lost in the busyness of life, like your family [and] friends,” he said.
“It’s the spiritual pre-season that sets you up for the year ahead.”
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