We have planned many successful parties, and shared ideas about it. But this time we share our experiences and ideas of hosting a successful Iftar* party. Iftar parties are hosted in the month of Ramadan* to share food and blessings with friends and family.
*Iftar – the meal eaten at the time of sunset or maghrib in the month of Ramadan. At this time the person who is fasting opens his/her fast by eating a date and drinking water or milk and some snacks.
*Ramadan- Ramadan is an Islamic month of fasting*. In this month, Muslims fast for 30 days, refraining from eating from sunrise (fajr) to sunset (maghrib). Each morning one eats before sunrise at the time of ‘Seher’, this is followed by a day of fasting, ending with a meal at sunset called ‘Iftar’.
*Fasting is meant to teach patience, modesty, spirituality, self restrain and purification.
Planning an Iftar party is slightly different from any party planning because one has to follow some religious and social etiquette in an Iftar party. In the month of Ramadan, Iftar parties are often hosted in families and friends to share the reward and blessings of sharing food and prayers together as one community and family.
I have the good fortune of co-hosting most of my Iftar parties with a good friend and we make a good team successfully planning and executing this event since some years. When planning any event, we simplify our tasks with the help of technology. We use excel spread sheets for guest lists and checklists and use emails and evites and google calendars for reminders.
Here are a list of some of the rules of religious and social etiquette, check list of do’s and don’ts, advantages and disadvantages and faux pas one should remember before hosting an Iftar party.
Guest list and Invitations: Make a guest list in excel with telephone numbers and emails of your friends and family. This list can help you in hosting similar events. If you are hosting a large Iftar party, use evites and emails to invite your guests. Evites remind your guests about the event and also remind them to rsvp. This gives you an approximate guest count for the event. To add a personal touch, calling and talking to them simultaneously helps.
Place for prayer– When you are hosting your party in a hall or community center, keep space for prayer for men and women. The place should be laid out with the prayer mats or clean flat sheets in the direction of the khiblah*. Extra scarves and shawls should also be provided for convenience of ladies to read their prayers. A chair or two can also be pulled up for seniors reading prayers.
Qiblah or Kiblah is the direction that should be faced when a muslim prays. The Qiblah, for any point of reference on the Earth, is the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.
Seperation of space– When you host an iftar on large scale remember to book a party hall which gives you the ability to keep a separation of space for praying and eating for men and women to give comfort level to everyone.
Menu– Plan a menu for Iftar and dinner separately. According to the number of guests decide on cooking yourself or catering. The evening should preferably have disposable dinnerware and silverware due to the large number of people invited and the requirement of two meals served in a short span of time, the Iftar snacks and dinner.
Iftar-The menu for Iftar should be planned out and laid out remembering the important objective of best entertaining a fasting guest. Menu hence should have dates, a dry fruit which is a common way to break one’s fast. If the dates are pitted, it’s very convenient, or keep a bowl on the table for easy disposing the pits; a drink of water or roohafza milk- a rose flavored milk drink, or harira- almond and milk warm drink. (milk or almonds etc give strength to the person after a day of fasting) or anything to quench the thirst. Most importantly keep a good supply of water; it’s your main entree 😉
The different cultures of the world eat and drink differently; hence the rest of the meal may be different. In the south Asian and Indian cultures a common dish of fritters in seasoned yogurt called “dahi vada” is common. (Yogurt helps calm the empty stomach); other commons are a baked curry puff pastry and fried Samosa -potato stuffed pastry. These give some instant carbohydrates for the empty stomach; fresh fruit like watermelon or a fruit salad or fruit chat (spiced or seasoned fruit) can also be served since fresh fruit of course is healthy nourishment. Avoid acidic drinks like lemonade or orange juice since it’s not comfortable to drink anything acidic after a day of fasting.
The layout of the iftar should be such that when the guests have to eat at the time of sunset, the food is easily approachable. The drinks can be served in glasses for convenience, a lot of bowls of dates can be set up; bowls of food and pre made plates can be set aside for convenience; but make sure you set up trays of food on the table for second helpings. There are certain disadvantages too of setting up premade plates, it may look improper to lay out food portions, there is wastage of food if more food is pre-plated, exposure of food to contamination. So precautions have to be taken with everything in regard. The layout can be convenient; the methods can change according to the number and types of guests.
If the number of invites is less, of course a sit down iftar may have an assortment of food laid out in multiple dishes stretching the table and food can be served by the guests themselves.
Dinner menu– Your dinner menu could have an assortment of protein and carbohydrates to give your guest a balanced dinner. This is important because it’s practically his one good meal for the day. Food types again change with different cultures, a following suggestion is to give an idea of a good balanced meal. A menu with a couple of meat entrées with goat/lamb, like goat curry or kadai gosh, or goat khorma; and chicken like tandori chicken, chicken tikka, chicken curry etc, give good protein nourishment. A vegetarian dish and salad provide added minerals. Eg palak paneer has spinach which is a great hydrating food. It has 93% water and rich in vitamins and minerals which combat the ill effects of heat. Carbohydrates like rice and meat biryani, fried rice, palao, naan/bread offer starch and energy. Lastly don’t forget the dessert. A sweet dessert after a meal will help sweeten your fasting guest’s bland taste buds. Desserts are also said to be good digestive after a heavy meal.
Tea/ Coffee– A cup of tea or coffee is well appreciated at these parties since a lot people are running low on caffeine and enjoy tea or coffee after their Iftar or dinner. Decaff tea or coffee option can be also provided for people who are uncomfortable drinking cafeenine late in the evening. A tea percolator with evaporated milk and sugar are very convenient. You can keep a thermos for warm water for those wanting decaff.
Checklist– Make a check list of things and supplies you will need at the party ahead of time and make sure you are taking it over. If the party is at home these may not be required.( plates, bowls, glasses, forks, spoons, serving spoons, tongs, serving bowls, napkins, water cans, ice, sodas, aluminum foil, zip locks, trash bags, mittens, apron, scissors ,knifes, can openers, clean up supplies, like Windex, prayer mats, carpets and clean sheets, scarves, shawls )
If you are catering your food, you should always call in and remind the caterer a day ahead. Also try to delegate a good friend to pick up the food, if the caterer is not delivering, this gives you time for set up.
Iftar parties are great gatherings with food, friends and family. Guests of different ages, children to seniors, cultures, regions, languages, are all fasting as equals and sharing food, prayers and blessings with all. End of the evening if your guests have sense of contentment, camaraderie and harmony, you have done a good job of making a successful evening.