When we were children smells of delicious food wafting through the neighbourhood would assault our senses while we played outside to make time pass while we waited for iftar (the sunset meal in which we break our fast during Ramadan).
Our stomachs growled in anticipation of the food we’d eat once the sun went down.
At some point in the late afternoon, mothers would call children back inside signalling an end to playtime. We’d then be told to wash up and don our Islamic-wear so that we can take plates of treats to share with the neighbours. We call it “sending cookies to the neighbours”. It was an exciting part of our day. It not only signalled that our long day of fasting was nearing its end, but also that we’d be soon eat the mouth-watering delicacies that we were taking from home to home.
Often the auntie you took the cookies to would ask you about your day, how the fast is going, all the while moving the fritters or daltjies or samoosas from your mom’s plate to one of her own and adding the goods she made to your mom’s plate so that you don’t go back home empty-handed.
At the end of “sending around cookies”, your table is filled with a variety of goods and you salivate while you sit at the dinner table waiting to hear the call to prayer. In typical child-like naivety, your eyes bigger than your stomach, you wolf down too much after a day of going without and ending up feeling sickly during and after magrib prayers. Thankfully, as you get older, you become wiser to what your body can handle.
Somewhere along the way, this tradition lost its stronghold on many Cape Town communities. It still happens, just not in every neighbourhood and where it does, the number of homes that share with one another are fewer than in the old days. Many people have both heads of the household working and are thus unable to prepare lavish sweets to send to their neighbours. Lots of people are also more health conscious than days gone by so prefer to eat a healthy meal or nourishing soup rather than fried foods and therefore have stopped partaking in the sending of cookies.
Sharing still is and will always remain a big part of Ramadan, though.
While the ritual of sending cookies has decreased in my immediate neighbourhood, there are always opportunities to share with family and friends and most importantly those less fortunate.
During Ramadan people from areas where basic needs are barely met find their way to many of our doors and ask for food. We’re all only happy to share. As we should be. I like to see this as Allah making it easier on us to participate in sadaqa (charitable acts).
Random acts of kindness towards our family and friends (helping an old aunt out with admin, for example) are forms of sharing that doesn’t break the bank and helps to make someone’s life easier.
The chance to share (whether it is time, money, or food) during this holy month is all around us. While we’ve been conditioned or become used to thinking of it as sending around cookies in Cape Town, sometimes it’s as simple as listening attentively to an elderly person lament the long wait at the day hospital for medication or smiling and waving at a neighbour driving by.
I wish you a spiritually fulfilling and blessed Ramadan. May the month ahead be peaceful, and filled with good deeds, kind acts, and sharing in whatever way you’re able to.