Thanksgiving on Ramadan
Time to go on a "regime"
November 27, 2002
One of the secretaries at the office has decided to fast for Ramadan. So has
my friend's husband. Basically, they are the two only people I know in my inner circle
who are practicing this religious rite.
And they are not even doing it for religious reasons. My friend's husband is doing
it for "discipline". My secretary is in the battlefront facing every Iranian
woman's war: the infamous "regime" (diet).
Maybe she feels comforted by the fact that other people are suffering along with
her, and this strengthens her resolve to stay on her diet plan. After all, every
gym trainer will tell you it is always easier to follow a strict exercise/nutrition
regimen with a partner.
The only person in my life I have ever known to fast for Ramadan for "religious
reasons" is my grandfather. He is also the only one who continues praying five
times a day facing Mecca, even though he lives far away in Canada. My parents, aunts
and uncles, even my grandmother have long since ceased any religious practice and
even sneer at my grandfather for continuing to do so.
Ironically, while the Muslim population is (or at least is supposed to be) fasting
at this time of year, Americans are stuffing themselves silly. It is after all Thanksgiving.
There are lots of weird things I can't figure out here as well. Like, why do African-Americans
celebrate Thanksgiving? Amistad wasn't exactly the Mayflower. Nevertheless,
I was in line at Ralph's behind an African-American family who had purchased about
50 pounds of cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, potatos etc (not to mention the huge turkey)
in preparation for the feast.
Do people nowadays even remotely associate Thanksgiving with pilgrims and Native
Americans? And is the event that brought those colorful historical anecdotes such
as the genocide of Native Americans really an occasion to give thanks?
Today, to most guys, Thanksgiving is all about football. For women, it means cooking
and cleaning up after forty people from an extended family she may not even like!
So what happens when one large segment of the world population is starving itself
and the other is filling their stomach like it was Santa Claus's goody bag? Could
there be any bigger clash between the cultures than during this time of year? Well
to think of it, I remember my friend Maddy describing Ramadan "feasts"
in Iran. She was a little girl then and remembers being woken up at 3 in the morning
or so to come down to the dining table. There, a large soffreh had been laboriously
set, with 10 different kinds of khoresht, kabaab, rice, and every meat you can imagine.
A large number of guests would always be invited to partake in the gastronomic riches.
Everyone would mercilessly chow down on the food, their mouth, jaws, and hands racing
against the clock in a frenzy.
I always wondered how long it would take for yet another American tradition to make
its way to Iran. After all, Christmas trees and little salon pooches are now seen
more commonly in Tehran. But I think Iranians already have their version of Thanksgiving.
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