Here’s a fun story to help non-Muslim children learn about Eid al-Fitr – the celebration taking place at the end of the Ramadan fast. In Indonesia, this celebration is called Lebaran, or Idul Fitri. This story is based in part on my experience living in a one room house with a family of 6 Indonesians for 4 months in a remote village in West Kalimantan. Together with my host family, I baked (and mostly ate) countless Lebaran cookies. What similarities can your child find to how your family celebrates special occasions?
My Indonesian village is surrounded by monkey-laughter and pink-icing sunsets. Everyone is busy because tomorrow Lebaran begins. That’s what we call the big party at the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is when the adults don’t eat during the day for a whole month. But there is going to be lots of eating for Lebaran!
I helped Mamah do our baking. We heaped cakes and cookies high on plates like big, colourful mountains – pink and white cake, yellow pineapple cookies and coconut ketupat wrapped in green banana leaves. Tomorrow I will wear brand new clothes, pray at the mosque, give money to the poor and visit with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins.
Wait a second. Do you hear that? It’s someone calling my name.
“Nur! Where are the cakes and cookies?”
“I don’t know, Ma.”
“Nur – they are gone! Disappeared! The pink and white cake, the coconut ketupat, even the pineapple cookies!”
The pineapple cookies are my favorite! I’m trying really hard not to cry. My cousins are arriving tomorrow and there will be no cookies or cakes to share. It’s going to be the worst Lebaran ever! Lebaran is all about sharing.
I ask my big brother if he knows anything about the sweets but he is too busy making bamboo firecrackers for Lebaran. I ask our next-door neighbors but they are too busy washing their Lebaran clothes. I ask the man who rides his bicycle past our house selling chickens but the chickens are squawking too loudly. No one knows where our cakes or cookies are!
I decide to walk to Lina’s house. She’s my best friend and will know what to do. I walk slowly, thinking hard. The hot sun of the rain forest warms my back like the blanket Mamah uses during rainy season. The cozy smell of baking and the chatter of excited kids are all around the village. I try hard to concentrate on where the sweets might be.
Suddenly, I hear a strange noise. It’s a wet, noisy, chomping sound and it’s coming from behind a jungle of banana plants. I feel a little afraid. My legs stop moving. The noise gets louder!
I think about what Lebaran would be like with no cakes and cookies. I think about how disappointed my cousins will be. I think about the yummy, crumbly taste of golden pineapple cookies in my mouth. I think about all of the time Mamah and I spent baking. I gulp. I have to be brave.
Slowly, I push back the wide, green curtain of banana leaves. There I see a mother orangutan eating some pink and white cake. I see a father orangutan munching some coconut ketupat. I see a baby orangutan wipe pineapple cookie crumbs from her hairy, little lips!
I drop the banana-leaf curtain and run to Lina’s crying.
“Lina! Lina! Lebaran is ruined.”
But Lina is standing on her front step smiling at me. Behind her I see my big brother, our next-door neighbors, and even the chicken man. They are standing near jars and plates filled with cookie-mountains.
“We heard about your cakes and cookies,” Lina tells me.
“Lebaran is about friendship,” says the chicken man. “So everyone is sharing their baking with you.”
“Just like I shared mine with the orangutans!” I said. “Happy Lebaran, everyone!”
Art by: my daughter!
Cartoon of Veiled Girls: Mosti, Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
About Kelley Powell
Kelley Powell has a Master’s degree in international development and has worked at a home for impoverished women and children in India, on a domestic violence research project in Laos and with the Canadian government’s family violence prevention unit. She met and married her husband, Imran, in Laos and is now happily at home with their 3 children, aged 7, 4 and 2. She teaches yoga and meditation in Ottawa and specializes in teaching parents, pregnant women, children and teens. When her children are napping or at school, she leaves the dishes in the sink and the toys on the floor and she writes. Her publishing credits include The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and New Moon Girls magazine. She is currently seeking a publisher for her young adult novel. Kelley is a partner in Satya Communications, a freelance writing company that creates compelling articles, reports and communication for a variety of clients.