Creating Community during Ramadan
Though I was raised in a Muslim household, this year in particular, Ramadan hit different. It was my first time in two years observing Ramadan the traditional way by fasting from food and water from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. For many people, Ramadan is a time of community. But with the pandemic and inability to gather in person, the usual adrenaline rush that carried me through a month of fasting has been lacking. I’m sure watching Nadiya Bakes didn’t help my energy levels either. However, as ever the optimist, I am grateful for silver linings in this pandemic.
Let’s be real, while fasting this year, sneaking a midday nap while working from home is significantly easier than the many times I used my lunch hour to nap in my car. But beyond sleep, this virtual Ramadan has exposed me to those outside of my usual bubble who celebrate the month and its culmination in the holiday of Eid Ul Fitr.
It’s been a reminder that I have the opportunity to make new Ramadan and Eid traditions, while still honoring old ones. This year, I attempted to make rose flavored thumbprint cookies, inspired by the famous Rooh Afza rose syrup adored by my family in Pakistan. This is a time when charity is encouraged, so I optimized the Netflix charity match program to make donations on behalf of my family to some of our favorite causes. To break my fast, I indulged in chocolate covered mascarpone stuffed medjool dates, a recipe I learned from my fellow Netflix employees in Amsterdam during an (internal) Cheflix cooking session. The cooking session inspired me to learn a little more about how my colleagues celebrate this special time, and here are a few of my favorites stories.
Identity: Somali / American
Job Title: Senior Accountant
Netflix Office: Los Gatos, CA
Eid in America, in particular the Bay Area, can feel not as ceremonious as it would in a more Muslim majority region. However, I think for that reason, close family and friends have always had to work hard to make Eid feel special. We usually host big dinners or have gift exchanges.
Eid is an important time of year for myself because it is a time for me to take stock and inventory of my habits, and focus on how I can improve them. There is so much self reflection that is unlocked during Eid, which I really enjoy. During Ramadan, I have started journaling. I do not normally keep a journal but I think this is one self-care activity I may keep in future months!
Identity: Indian / American
Job Title: Administrative Assistant
Netflix Office: Los Angeles, CA
I grew up celebrating Eid as a religious and cultural holiday. Being Muslim, it was the only holiday I had growing up where we waited and anticipated the the day coming up, similar to how folks in the US love counting down the days until Christmas. Culturally, as an Indian American, Eid was the day to wear your best Kurta and eat a plate of Biryani. For me, Eid always meant putting differences aside and getting together to celebrate family.
Two things my family is always big on are food and charity. On Eid, there were certain meals we’d only have that time of year, like Paya and Sheer Khurma. There’s always a spiced aroma lingering in the house the night before, because my mom would stay up cooking those meals in big pots (called a Dekchi). In terms of charity, we’d make sure to send money to our family back in India to distribute to the poor for food and clothes, which we got back photos of smiling families. However, with the current COVID situation in India, we’ve had to pivot to helping folks obtain medical supplies. In my SoCal (Southern California) Indian community, many friends have been collecting money to purchase masks, medical treatment, and oxygen supplies due to the massive surge that’s affected the country. We’re not expecting the photos this time around, but are just hoping that our people make it through this unprecedented time.
Something I didn’t grow up experiencing was inclusivity of the holiday with others. When I was a kid, I couldn’t really explain what the holiday was to my friends and my teachers frowned upon the idea that I took the day off from school. As an adult, I’ve learned how to explain why Eid matters to me and I have been able to encourage younger kids to do the same. I’ve also enjoyed celebrating the holidays with folks who don’t know what it is. Last year, I made little treat boxes with Gulab Jamun cupcakes that I joyously delivered to colleagues.
Job Title: Administrative Assistant
Netflix Office: Singapore
Eid is not just about feasting with family and friends. Eid is also about celebrating the fact that you have worked so hard in the holy month of Ramadan to seek blessings from God. From abstaining from food and water in the day, refraining from thinking bad thoughts and uttering bad words, and striving to do as many good deeds as possible.
When we celebrate Eid in Singapore, we say "Maaf Zahir dan Batin" (in Malay) to each other. It means to ask for forgiveness from the deeds that we may have done intentionally and unintentionally. It's a tradition to seek forgiveness, especially with our elders. Our elders will sit in chairs at the front, and the young ones will line up, waiting for their turn to talk to them. It can get very emotional, as we see the elders crying in return. In the Malay language, we hear each other’s exchanges in beautiful poetic words. Even if one is not close to another person, we would still convey our well wishes.
I am so grateful for my fellow Muslim colleagues for sharing how they celebrate this special time in their lives. As a Pakistani-Muslim-American, I have been inspired to create new traditions, especially as I try to make Ramadan and Eid special for my growing 1.5 year old son. As tough as the pandemic has been, I am grateful that in true Netflix fashion, it’s given me a greater appreciation for the multicultural, transnational digital community we live in. This year, we both donned a new traditional Pakistani outfit, snagged a Krispy Kreme donut from the mosque after early morning prayers, and took our much needed Eid day nap.
Eid Mubarak Netflix!
(Pre-donut and pre-nap photo)
(Post-donut and nap photo)