How do Canadians celebrate Ramadan?
Canada works to embrace the beliefs of all newcomers regardless of their backgrounds, and part of that is being aware of all major religious celebrations and observances.
The country prides itself on multiculturalism and embracing the religions of all newcomers. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act ensures that all people in Canada, regardless of their immigration status, has the right to freedom of belief without persecution.
Islam is the second most commonly reported religion in Canada according the 2021 census from Statistics Canada. The census says between 2001 and 2021, the population of Muslims in Canada has grown from 2% of the overall population to 4.9%. This accounts for nearly 1.8 million people.
The census attributes the growth in Canada’s Muslim population to immigration. Nearly one-quarter of Canada’s population is an immigrant and data shows that between 2011 and 2021, 18.9% of immigrants reported being Muslim. Most live in Ontario, which reported an Islamic population of 6.7%.
Marking the celebration
Ramadan is a religious holiday for Muslims and is celebrated on the ninth month of the lunar calendar. For 2023, it falls between March 22 or 23 (depending on your location) and April 22. It is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and charity that ends with Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic year.
In Canada, senior political and business leaders commemorate Ramadan by issuing statements and attending or hosting iftars to break the fast. The Prime Minster issues a special statement to mark Ramadan and acknowledge the contributions of Islamic Canadians.
Northern Canadians have a longer fast this year
Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the year and always moves by 12 days. Over a few years, it can move from the long nights of winter into spring or summer when the days then become much longer.
This means that when Ramadan falls in the spring or summer, those who live in Canada’s more northern communities have longer to wait until the sun goes down and only a short interval before it comes up again. In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, Muslims who are observing Ramadan this year can expect to fast for just over 13 hours a day throughout April. Those in Whitehorse will be waiting 15 hours between meals by the end of the month.
Other ways to celebrate
Another aspect of Ramadan is giving money to those who are less fortunate, known as Zakat. Zakat is purely monetary, and it is expected that those who make above a certain level of income will give some of their money to charity. During Ramadan, charitable organizations across Canada will host iftars and other large events to raise money for the less fortunate Muslims, both in Canada and abroad.
There are over 20 mosques in each of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, and Calgary. Observant Muslims pray five times a day throughout the entire year but during Ramadan, it is encouraged to spend more time in prayer. Some Muslims take time to recite Tarawih, which means reading portions of the Qur'an each day throughout the month. This can be done at home or the mosque.
Ramadan ends with Eid ul-Fitr. Typically, the day starts by putting on brand-new clothes and going to the mosque for prayers. The rest of Eid is devoted to good food and visiting friends and family. Households will have sweets like mithai, dates or baklava, depending on their traditions, to entertain guests throughout the day.