Religiosity in northern latitudes

A colleague of mine at this part-time gig I’ve picked up mentioned yesterday that she is fasting. I immediately said: “Oh! Happy Ramadan!” To which another colleague responded, you can’t really say “happy” for Ramadan, can you?

You can’t really. I know that from my own fasting holiday experiences — these kinds of occasions are for thoughtful contemplation, meditation, repentance (Yom Kippur is mine, and the Reform prayer book that I grew up reading is called “The Gates of Repentance”).

So a little later when I ran into my colleague at the copier, I said to her more seriously, “may you have an easy fast!”

She laughed. It turns out, it’s not easy fasting in a northern country during summer. My colleague said she is feeling incredibly sleep deprived, on top of the fasting.

Typically, these kinds of religious rites are pegged to sunset in Judaism, and for Yom Kippur, you fast from sunset to sunset. During Ramadan, you can eat when the sun sets and start fasting again when it rises — that’s how you survive a whole month of fasting.

Unless you live really far north.  Imagine keeping your fast as a Muslim during Ramadan when it falls in summer in Stockholm:  the sun goes down at around 10 pm and rises just after 2 am these days. You’ve just broken your fast, eating your meal at 10 pm; you are not going to sleep right away, to allow everything to digest. And then a few hours later, whammo, the sun is coming up and your body is saying, hey! It’s time to get up! Sunlight!  

Now, imagine trying to do that north of the Arctic circle, in a place like Kiruna, where the sun isn’t setting until, oh, say… August?  Happy Ramadan!

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3 Responses to Religiosity in northern latitudes

  1. Lila says:

    Geez! What do they do during Arctic summers? I really wonder!

    • zurichsee says:

      I have no idea! I can only think that are not that many observant Muslims in the Arctic. And for the Jewish folks, the fasting holydays are always in fall and so a little more reasonable… but for Shabbat, what do you do? There must be a rabbi out there somewhere who has weighed in… !

  2. Laura says:

    Well, you’ve just stirred up a soup of thoughts for me. In Judaism, we’ve always got the blessed edict not to injure ourselves. I’m sure the Rabbi’s have fought out whether a 24 hour fast for two days in the diaspora is healthy.

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