Happy New Year 1439! Here are a few thoughts on marking lunar birthdays with children

The New Year is often a time to look forward, and also look back at how time was spent. We often find ourselves thinking about what goals we may want to plan forward too. Although some families may have traditions around the New Year, some families may not have a sense of what those are or if they are valued and important for your family system to participate in.  This may be true for you whether you participate in the solar or lunar New Year, or both. Having a sense of why the calendar is important and why you may want to mark this occasion is useful to take more control over your own family routines, traditions and cultures. If you are curious about the lunar calendar and what it means for those in the Muslim faith take a look at some of the following links :

https://www.faith-matters.org/2017/09/21/this-year-sees-alignment-of-the-jewish-muslim-calendars/

https://www.aquila-style.com/focus-points/spirituality/significance-of-islamic-new-year/83108/

http://ourmuslimhomeschool.com/2015/06/islamic-calendar-for-children_14.html

[This article is part of a blog hop with Multicultural Motherhood and other bloggers. For more relevant links please read to the end. Links will be added through the ‘blog hop week’].

Planning lunar birthdays:

In this article I will write about the idea of lunar birthdays. A lunar birthday is a family tradition that you can choose to introduce to your family. The idea relates to encouraging the sense of cultural identity development in children and a sense of understanding of themselves in relation to the lunar calendar. It is a fun, practical and relatable way in which children can become interested in the lunar calendar and therefore open up opportunities for them to learn about history. If your family already comfortably celebrates birthdays it will not be too different. However if you have a family tradition of not celebrating birthdays this may not feel like it is something for you.

Some reasons to consider celebrating a lunar birthday – children naturally will be interested in the lunar calendar because they will want to know which month their lunar birthday falls. For older children you can set a task that they need to track the lunar months in a diary and calculate their birthday in order to remind everyone about it. Small scale it so that it does not become burdensome. Keeping it to a small family event will help to keep it boundaried. You can usually work out your child’s lunar birthday using an app like Muslim Pro which calculates the lunar months according to the Hijri calendar. Alternatively for each age year of your child move their birthday 10 days back.  For example if you have a four year old born on the 10th of December, move the date approx 40 days earlier than the 10th December. This will give you an approximation of their lunar birthday.

Things to try on a lunar birthday:

Connecting with your child:

A letter to your child with key messages you may choose to write to represent the year before and the year ahead. Read the letter and keep it positive – include the new responsibilities that you feel your child is now able to take on. Also acknowledge the special role of siblings. This small ceremonial process allows the family to connect in ways that may not be possible in a busy family life. What you write in the message may reflect family transitions or age transitions for older children. For younger children it may be more focussed on the things you noticed about them in encouraging their character development and how they are valued as a special part of the family.

Showing appreciation:

The gifting process. Create a rule that for the lunar birthday you will all offer something either handmade or from within the home (or arguably from your imagination like gifting an idea or dream). Baking a lunar birthday cake at home and decorating it with the lunar date can help reinforce their learning about the calendar. The birthday is a qualitative family experience different from traditional western style birthdays. If that is not practical and you do want to give a monetary gift, I would suggest setting a tight limit for that and keeping it very boundaried. You may choose to gift all the children the same thing rather than giving only one child something. It depends on how you usually manage gifts and the siblings’ level of understanding. In this scenario the first child to receive the gift would be the child who has the lunar birthday – followed by the others being told on this lovely day all siblings receive a gift too. In which case you may ask how is the child defined – well the letter is what keeps the focus on the ‘lunar birthday child’ and the games or activity could also be chosen by that child as explained in the next section.

Family bonding and making memories:

The fun – decide with the child from a list of three options of ways they can enjoy the lunar birthday.  Examples could include  – A New experience, a movie night or a games night. A new experience may be a family trip to the woods you have not explored yet, or something you were planning as a family anyway such as a visit to a clay modelling workshop. I think a movie night does not need much explanation but do try to make it feel different – rearrange furniture – put up fairy lights and bake some yummy snacks together. The movie of course is what is acceptable in your family. If you enjoy watching nature or history documentaries go for that rather than the usual array of Disney movies aimed at kids. A games night – let the child choose 2 games and the parents choose 2. Again allow them to rearrange the house within reason for this. Spend the day making any special props for the games.

Keep focussed on the objective:

Lunar birthdays can help prime children ready for the events in the lunar calendar, for example, they will work out whether their birthday is before or after Ramadan and Hajj. They will naturally become curious about why the moon needs to be sighted and what the difference is between the solar calendar and the lunar calendar.

You may choose to only mark lunar birthdays up until a certain age or you may decide to swop traditional birthdays for the lunar birthdays. My advice is to be very clear about it so that you don’t end up having 2 birthday ‘burdens’ as the children grow up. In essence the process is not about being materialistic or accumulating expense.  Lunar birthdays move throughout the seasons and so children will get a sense of how the two Eids will also move throughout the year too. Of course you can teach all this without using lunar birthdays no doubt. What a lunar birthday offers is the lunar age of the child which may be useful to calculate as it will be older than the legal age of the child. This may be useful for them to know especially in matters of understanding religious jurisprudence relating to age. Curiosity about the lunar calendar will also hopefully teach them that the night precedes the day and, therefore, seeking Laylatul Qadr requires it to be calculated accordingly to avoid disappointment!

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2 thoughts on “Happy New Year 1439! Here are a few thoughts on marking lunar birthdays with children

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