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!

BLOG HOP LINKS WILL BE ADDED HERE SOON!

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The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah could be your second shot at doing the last 10 days of Ramadan again with your kids!

This is what i am trying to remember as we have approached the month of Dhul Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar). Social media users are catching on to this concept and more and more videos, blog articles and downloads have been circulated this year all aimed at encouraging the season of ‘another go at the last ten days’ – except they are the first 10 days this time round! That’s all good! I do actually welcome that! Why not be prepared and upbeat! The second Eid of the year always does seem to fly by too quickly and so the buzz of articles and videos on social media can certainly help for parents to get into the mood and help set the scene they actually want in their homes for this beautiful new season in the Islamic lunar calendar.

So what’s the plan this time round? Well, remember the empty feeling at the end of last Ramadan? Here is a chance to ‘redo’ and prolong those 10 days all over again! So you can do many things together to bond, get spiritual, get learning or sharing just as you tried to in Ramadan. Celebrating festivals, rituals, and seasons are all very important for emotional, spiritual and identity development. So don’t overlook the opportunity to involve your children. Here are some ‘short and sweet’ ideas – I know you are already inspired and i’m probably wasting my time with my super organised readers, but just incase there’s someone out there who is feeling a little stuck – here it is –  Enjoy!

1). Make a Count down Kaba poster. Easy – just cut 10 black squares and add a gold strip and rectangle for the kaba features – Kaba voila! Now add a number on each Kaba door. If you want to get really adventurous, the last door could open with a clue behind it for something fun planned on Eid day. My advice is to not put the clue behind the Kaba door till the actual day of Eid to prevent it being torn out beforehand 🙂

2). Watch Hajj live or prerecorded as a family. Make a special viewing area in the house  -for example – place the screen/ laptop on a low table and then the colourful prayer mats arranged to form a carpeted area to sit on.  Use a special bowl for prayer beads. Go further and  drape white, black and gold scarves around the area. this depends on the space you have and if you have a wall stapler 😉 Hang sparkly battery lights that you may have used last Eid. When the family is not watching Hajj live you can play the Quran or set up everyones Qurans to sit in a circle to read together in the mornings and evenings. Whereas the build up was to laylatul Qadr in Ramadan, in the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah the build up is towards the day of Arafat (day 9) and Eid (day 10). The day of Arafat is the day pilgrims stand on mount Arafat all day making dua. It is strongly recommended to fast for those not at Hajj and of age/physical ability. Therefore, day 9 may include extra special activities such as suhoor and iftar, and elongated dua between Asr and Magrib.  Remember to read up on all the sunnahs for the day of Arafat and day of Eid so you are not caught out.

3). Create a playlist of historical educational programs about the Kaba. Use this as an opportunity to understand more about the Holy mosque and what changes have been made over the centuries in Makkah and Medina. Do post a link in the comments if you find some good ones to recommend to others.

4). Revisit stories of how and when the Kaba was built and by which prophets. Use childrens’ stories of the prophets books available in audio or book format.

5). Set up another table for crafts. You can colour a Dhul Hijjah journal together as a family, doing a couple of pages each, or an entire journal each! There are plenty of journal  ideas found on the ilmaeducates blog.

6) If you have been on Umrah in the past,  look at the pics/ videos and talk about what prayers you made and make a new dua list to use in these ten days. (If you are planning to go on Umrah after the Hajj season with your kids – you may want to also read our short article featured in the Muslim Travel Girl blog .

7) Let the kids try on Ihram! Either borrow one from someone you know or use scarves.

8) Don’t forget the usual list of good deeds –  fast, read your personalised dua lists, perform night prayers, and giving to charity are all important. Allow the children to participate according to their age/ability. Sometimes families may also encourage their children to participate in a sponsored fast to raise money for a big charity.

9) Qurbani – the story behind this will have been told via the prophets stories mentioned above. If you are doing qurbani locally, try to distribute it as a family. Kids will remember actions better than explanations, therefore, involving them wherever possible in good deeds and ‘giving to the needy’ is important.

10) Eid plans – be sure to make  gifts and visit or invite family and friends that you may not have been able to see last Eid. Making gifts is more fun than buying them! How about air-dried clay tiles with hand designed geometric patterns (with the name of the person you are gifting to in the centre).  Don’t forget to make two holes at the top of the clay tile to thread ribbon through so the tile can be hung. You will need to get making now so they are dried and decorated in time for Eid!!!

Did i miss anything? Let me know in the comments 😉

This post is part of the Eid al Adha and Hajj Blog hop by Multicultural Motherhood. Join us as we share Eid and Hajj related posts. Hop over to see related posts from other Muslimah Bloggers.

BLOG HOP LINKS:

Eid Party Crafts For Kids by Multicultural Motherhood

Ever Wonder why Hajj is Once in a Life Time by Jeddah Mom
Hajj/ Umrah Products by Ayeina.Com
Dhul Hijjah Best 10 Days by Christal Joan
Eid Ul Adha crafts/activities and celebrations in a homeschool by The Fire Fly
The activities of the big day of Eid al Adha we need to know by Ummu Kulthum
Get organised for Eid ul Adha – printables, activities and more! by And Then She Said
Free Download: My Dhull Hijjah Journal by Ilma Education
The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah could be your second shot at doing the last 10 days of Ramadan again with your kids by Dr Mumly