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.