How the Senegalese celebrate Ramadan

Ramadan kicked off over the weekend. Because of its large Muslim population (95.6%), Ramadan is a big part of Senegalese culture. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset and break their daily fast with meals with their family. 

There’s a Wolof saying “Sucaru Koor,” that translates to “sweetening the fast” in English that we use to describe one of our Ramadan traditions. At some point during the 30-day fast, usually early on, people gather any extra money they have to buy food staples like sugar, grain and rice for others.

One of the most beautiful parts about this tradition is that it’s not “the rich” giving to “the poor.” It’s every single person, whether they have $1 or $1,000, giving anything extra they have to help others. The food is given to organizations, groups, youth homes, neighbors, family and friends — not as a handout, but because we’re sharing what has been provided to us.

This coming together as a community to help one another is a recognition that wealth isn’t equally distributed and that as humans, it’s our responsibility to take care of each other and flatten the curve as much as possible. 

Fasting is hard, and not eating or drinking is a constant reminder of how privileged we are to be able to satisfy our hunger (whenever we want) and share our wealth with others. In general, Senegal is a very vibrant place, with street vendors, horse-drawn rickshaws, singing and dancing, and kids playing everywhere. Ramadan is meant to be a daily reminder of how truly blessed we are without even realizing it. It eliminates the distractions of our daily lives so that we can appreciate our blessings small and large.    

The end of Ramadan is marked with Eid al-Fitr, which is Arabic for “Festival of Breaking Fast,” a three-day celebration full of feasts, gift exchanges, and fashion that everyone looks forward to and enjoys.