As is the case in most Islamic countries, Iranian markets prepare intensively for Ramadan and the demand for Ramadan supplies increases. It is a month filled with invitations and hospitality over iftar (breakfast) meals and suhoor (late dinner).
However, Iran is slightly different when it comes to some habits and traditions in receiving Ramadan. Before the start of the month, men and women form groups to clean mosques in their neighbourhoods. Families there give mosques prayer rugs. They also clean and decorate their homes. Women prepare the herbs and spices that give distinct flavours to Iranian dishes.
Some of the most important habits before Ramadan in Iran is for those upset with each other to reconcile, as elderly Iranians invite those who have issues with one another to speak and reconcile.
An unusual habit in Shiraz takes place on the last Friday of the month of Shaaban, as the residents of the area gather and turn towards the Qibla (direction of the Kaaba) with masses of soil in their hands, saying: “O God we have left our sins and destroyed their shackles. We are ready and willing to worship and fast in Ramadan.” They then throw the soil into the ground, believing that this means their sins are erased.
We might think that the idea of a “mesaharati” (person who walks around at suhoor time to remind people to eat and drink) is only existent in Egypt, but in fact, it exists in many countries, including Iran.
In Iran there is also a habit known as “bird’s head”. It is one that encourages children to fast until it becomes a habit. They fast until 12:00 pm then break their fast.
As for families with daughters who recently married, they follow a tradition called “a day and colours” on the first day of Ramadan after the couple is married. The family prepares a full iftar meal and sends it to the bride’s house with a wreath of flowers.
Iranians call Ramadan “the month of Quran spring”. In this month, religious centres, such as mosques, race to present cultural programmes and encourage the rich to donate to the poor and needy.
Women get together in a house to finish reading the entire Quran.
In the province of Hamadan, women sew the so-called “bags of blessings” on 27 Ramadan. When these fasting women go to mosques to perform Dhuhr (afternoon) prayers, they take with them fabric, threads, and needles and start sewing. The people of Hamadan believe that whoever donates money into these bags, God increases their money.
Iranians also celebrate Al-Qadr night and call it “revival night” on 19, 21, and 23 Ramadan. They also have other Shiite occasions to celebrate in Ramadan, such as the memory of beating Amir Al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful) Ali bin Abi Talib on 19 Ramadan. On 21 Ramadan, they celebrate his martyrdom.
On Al-Qadr night, they pray to God and ask for forgiveness. The government also allows employees to go in for work two hours late the next morning rather than only one hour.
As for Iranian tables during Ramadan, food has a very special flavour. Iftar tables in Ramadan have feature dates. There are also soups, harissa, and other famous Iranian foods.
Iranians prefer to break their fast by eating dates first, drinking hot water, or eating any other Iranian desserts. Noteworthy, harissa is one of the most popular meals in Iran and is eaten as an appetizer for iftar, and a main course for suhoor.
Some of the most important Iranian dishes also include soup or noodle soup, soup and butter, desserts including rice porridge, and others.