How Pinterest Changed The Way We Celebrate Ramadan

Photo: Courtesy of Islami Mommy.
As a first-generation Muslim American, I'm used to my holy days going by unrecognized. When I was growing up, my teachers were well-versed in Christmas and Easter, but they weren’t exactly equipped to talk about the significance of fasting during Ramadan. To make matters worse, my high school and college exams often fell on the holiest days of the Islamic year. As much as I wanted to share my traditions with my non-Muslim friends, Islamic holidays just didn’t have the secular charm or “holiday spirit” of Christian celebrations — aka the pretty decorations and rainbow-colored candy that come along with mainstream commercialization.
Enter the Pinterest generation.
Right now, about 3.45 million Muslims live in the United States, and 42% of them are second- and third-generation Americans, which means most of them grew up with the same holiday movies, TV, and music as other Americans. They spent a lot of time watching Christmas movies and specials that just didn’t translate to their own religious holidays. Decades of pent-up holiday spirit, combined with highly visual social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, have led Ramadan to basically become the Super Bowl of Muslim festivities. There are over six million mentions of Ramadan on Instagram covering holiday decor, activities, food, and fashion. Not to mention an endless scroll of Pinterest boards dedicated to Ramadan planning. Retailers have also finally stepped in to meet the demand. Once exclusively homemade items, Ramadan decorations can be found on Etsy (mostly offered by Muslim-owned small businesses), Party City, Crate & Barrel, Walmart, and Amazon. This year, Party City and Crate & Barrel have already sold out of the majority of their Ramadan inventory. (Somewhat similarly, Hanukkah, which generally coincides with the Christmas season, has transformed into a bigger, more commercial holiday, with gift-giving and other customs, over the past century for Jewish-Americans.)
It's a surprising development, since most Muslim holidays don’t exactly lend themselves to themed commercialization: As the holiest month of the Islamic year, Ramadan involves fasting from food, water, sex, and any “impure” behavior from dawn until sunset. The idea is to detach from worldly pleasures and instead focus on giving to charity and strengthening one’s iman (belief). At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, a feast with family and friends.
Since Ramadan starts on May 15, here are some ways Muslims are making their celebrations Pinterest-worthy.
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The Decor

Just as many Americans decorate their fireplace mantels for Christmas, Muslims are finding an abundant supply of banners, embellishments, and signs to compliment any Ramadan mantle theme. The traditional symbols of Ramadan are lanterns and crescent moons (to pay homage to the holiday’s nights); since, in recent years, Ramadan has fallen during the summer (according to the fluctuating Islamic Calendar), decor themes can also include flowers and leaves. Pillar candles are also a fun accent piece, and many families display five candles to represent the five pillars of Islam: belief in one god, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.
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The Colors: Purple & Yellow

Manal Aman founded Hello Holy Days, a crafting blog dedicated to Muslim holidays, to help bring her faith’s holidays to mainstream media and retailers. Pretty quickly, she realized readers didn’t know how to create a color scheme that instantly evoked Ramadan the same way red and green scream Christmas and blue and silver evoke Channukah. “I found that the majority of [millennial] moms want Muslim holidays to have a set of colors the way all other American holidays do,” she says. “Celebrating with set holidays colors helps Muslim Americans build a sense of unity and helps others understand more about [Muslim] holidays, too.”

Aman did some research on Western holiday color history, and found purple and yellow to be the most suitable colors for Ramadan festivities. She’s since partnered with Martha Stewart and Crate & Barrel to create Ramadan-specific content and products, most of which feature purple and yellow prominently. That said, many people opt for green decor, since that’s the color traditionally associated with Islam — it was Prophet Muhammad’s favorite color and it’s the most referenced color in the Quran.
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The Eid Countdown Calendar

Inspired by Christmas advent calendars, Ramadan countdown calendars have recently risen in popularity. Traditionally DIY efforts or Etsy finds, Ramadan calendars are now popping up in mainstream retailers like Crate & Barrel and Amazon. Parents fill the days of the calendar with good deed challenges, words from the Quran, or small treats. The idea is for children to mark the progression of Ramadan and participate in the journey of doing good deeds and abstaining from vices.
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The Ramadan Tree

The Christmas tree is often the center of the winter holidays in America. It’s an instantly recognizable item that immediately communicates that it's holiday season. Many Muslims have borrowed the tree and used it less as a focal point and more as a symbol. The Ramadan tree (or plant) is the central location for gifts and can be decorated with lights and ornaments of Islamic symbols. It can also – like a Christmas advent calendar – be used as a countdown calendar, if you attach 30 envelopes to it. For many first-generation Muslims, this tradition has evolved to more decor-focused nods to the tree, like whimsical tree branches.

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