Holidays in Almaty

It’s been about a month and one week since I first came to Almaty…I can’t believe how fast time has gone!  This blog post will be featuring two holidays/celebrations I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

Eid al-Fitr or Озара айт

This year Ramadan took place from late May until late June, so we arrived in Kazakhstan during the middle of Ramadan.  For those who don’t know what Ramadan is, here is a short, rudimentary description from Wikipedia: “Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (Sawm) to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam”.

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Ramadan spelled out with bread at Рамстор one of the major supermarkets here.  The ‘d’ might actually be a bit broken now that I look at it…

My host mom, as well as some of my friends here, that were observing Ramadan would eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset. Since Kazakhstan is fairly far north, my host mom and I would eat dinner together around nine.  For mornings, my host mother would wake up around four-ish in order to cook herself breakfast, eat and then go back to sleep.

I recall the first couple of weeks in Almaty being really hot; I distinctly remember one day definitely being 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit for all the Americans).  It was miserable.  Nevertheless, my host mom and some of my friends here would not drink throughout the day in accordance with Ramadan.  I honestly admired their self-discipline and dedication.

Eid al-Fitr, according to Wikipedia is the “feast of breaking the fast.  It is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.” On the morning of Eid, my host mother’s relatives (her two sisters and her brother’s family) came over for a big brunch.  I had eaten breakfast a short while ago and so I was not prepared to eat the amount that ended up being at the table…

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Breakfast…so much food

While eating we talked about a whole bunch of things while we occasionally would watch the televised prayer at the largest mosque in Moscow.  By the end we were all really full from all the amazing food. Before we all parted ways, my host mom’s brother said a prayer (in Arabic? if I’m not mistaken).

This was my first time experiencing Ramadan and I feel very blessed and thankful that I was invited to take part in such a beautiful celebration. In my opinion, Ramadan is a beautiful time of the year.  To see the dedication, generosity, charity and compassion of people during this time was something special to witness and heartening.

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My host mom’s brother and his wife over at ours for Eid.  All the food hadn’t been put out yet…there was more food if you can imagine! Our neighbor Sasha came over later to eat 2nd lunch with us.

Throwing Candy for a New Home

The second celebration is for новоселье or a house warming party.  Last week, I went to the housewarming party of a friend of my host mother.  Once we got to the apartment and took our shoes off, my host mom started throwing candy into every room.  She explained to me earlier that throwing candy or shaschu (I’m pretty sure that’s called) was a way of wishing somebody a bright future in their new home.  However, I didn’t actually know that I could pick up the candy and keep it so I was just awkwardly standing there while my host mom threw candy until my friend (my host mom’s, best friend’s granddaughter) told me that I could pick some up too. We all raced from room to room to pick up as much candy as we could.

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Afterwards we had a big meal which was also amazing.

By: Allison Fujimoto

Program: Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program

Term: Summer 2017

 

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