Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Break for Ramadhan

Since September 1st until the beginning of October our weekly English and reading class will be on vacation. The reason being, of course, is for Ramadhan, the Islamic fasting month. Most of the children who usually join class are fasting and have activities at the mosque in the evenings.
Yogyakarta during Ramadhan has a unique feel to it. In the days many food stands are closed, and most people aren't eating or drinking anything. By five o'clock the snack stands begin to come out, until the streets are full with stands selling everything from fried spring rolls and tempe, to fruit juices and coconut sweets. Between 5:30 and 6:00, before sunset, is Maghrib, and the call to break fasting (referred to as buka puasa) calls out through the speakers in every nearby mosque. People at this time gather together to eat and drink, breaking their day-long fast. You will often hear fireworks throughout the village at this time, as people like to set them off after fasting has been broken. The eating continues into the early morning hours, until before sunrise when the call for "Saur" (Imsak) rings out, a call to eat one last time before fasting begins again until the following evening. People wake up to walk to nearby food stalls or cook at home, and the diligent ones from there go to the mosque to pray.
Thus are the activities of our little students for the month. I've observed that most of the children are quite diligent with their fasting, and there's a sense of excitement amongst them in the evening hours when they eat together and enjoy all the yummy treats they've gathered. Ramadhan will end with Lebaran, also known as Idul Fitri,which means to festively break the fast, and is coordinated with the first sighting of the new moon. The important and fun part about Idul Fitri is the gathering of community. People wear their best clothes and visit from house to house, drinking sweet tea and specially made pastry snacks together. They gather with their family and friends to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings they have committed in the previous year, often expressed in the saying: Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin, which means "forgive me from the bottom of my heart/soul for my wrongdoings in the past year". This year Lebaran falls on the 1st and 2nd of October. After that, our weekly classes will begin again, with new inspiration and fervor!! Until then, it's back to organizing books and joining in the festivities...!

For further information about Ramadhan customs in Indonesia, try visiting the following website: http://www.expat.or.id/info/lebaran.html.

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