Come Ramadan, Muslims find various ways to incorporate the spirit of the holy month into their homes.
One particular decor element that has taken root – and is quickly gaining ground in the region this year – is the crescent moon tree.
Chances are you’ve come across it yourself: the artificial tree comes in a number of sizes and colours, with its defining feature being its distinct crescent moon shape.
With its Instagram-friendly appearance, it has blown up online under different names – moon tree, crescent moon tree, Ramadan tree and even Eid tree – as more families take to them. A search for #RamadanTree on Instagram turns up more than 1,000 posts, while one for #EidTree yields over 1,500; impressive since three years ago, they didn’t really exist.
So how did it all begin? It all seems to have started in Michigan, in the US, where resident Samar Baydoun Bazzi decided to mark the holy month with some festive cheer. As a mother, she wanted to create a special experience for her daughter, so she began incorporating Islamic-themed art into the home. When that wasn’t enough, she tried a Christmas tree, but that only confused her child further, she told local media.
That is how Bazzi ended up taking things into her own hands – by creating Ramadan trees in the shape of a crescent moon as a tribute to Islam. As the pictures of the trees circulated online, she started getting orders and the trend just picked up from there.
How did trend reach the UAE?
The crescent-shaped tree is making its way across to the UAE, too. Zahirah Marty, founder of brand development agency Think Liquorice, purchased one in 2020 through Amazon, but she found it quite difficult to source one at the time, and options were limited.
Today, however, it's easier, as a number of brands have starting selling them.
Crate & Barrel, which introduced the tree in 2020, saw sales of the crescent tree soar this year. The hugely popular item can be bought item both online and in-store, for Dh400.
Why get a crescent tree?
UAE resident and mum-of-four Taghred Chandab, who bought one before Ramadan from Kibsons, says it worked as a great way to start a conversation with little ones about Islam and Ramadan.
“We like to decorate for Ramadan and Eid, to give the children a sense of excitement around both the holy month and Eid. My youngest is 5 and she has asked over the years if we could have a Christmas tree at Christmas, but as Muslims we didn't feel this was appropriate as it didn't reflect our beliefs.
"She was really excited when the crescent tree arrived and we explained to her why the moon was important in Islam, particularly around Ramadan and Eid. She feels the spirit now. Sometimes kids need visual aids to understand."
When Marty posted a picture of her tree on social media last year, she received many queries from other parents, also looking for a way to “bring the month to life for their children and make it something tangible and memorable”.
"Growing up, we didn't have anything like this," she tells The National. "There weren't decorations and lights. At best we shared plates of food or dates with neighbours and family and waited for Eid; for a day of family and food. We did a little less that month, and besides the wave of energy at iftar, it was a pretty non-eventful month from a child's perspective.
“I want Ramadan to be a month-long celebration of who we are, and time at home together, and most importantly I want to create new traditions for my family based on our diversity and mixed cultural background, because that’s a part of our identity.
"It is a month to reflect, and reconnect with ourselves, our home, our family, our creator and I want that to be done in a lively and festive space. Having that centrepiece is a symbolic display of that for me."
Marty says she makes setting up the tree an educational and fun experience for her son Noah, who loves it, too. “While we decorate it, we chat about why it’s a moon and not a tree, why we have it out, what fasting means and how he has so much to look forward to with Eid.
“I want Noah to fall in love with his faith, and all that it comes with. We live in a very challenging world, and children today won’t accept things ‘because we say so’. I want my son to view religion as the beautiful part of his world it is from a young age, and creating reasons to celebrate, decorate and bring joy is how I choose to do it. Everything else will follow."
A response to criticism
Despite its popularity, the trend is not without its criticism. A cursory search online will find comments about it copying western traditions, while others believe it can be ostentatious.
“In any area of life there will always be critics, and I respect that as humans we will differ in our opinions," says Marty. "I prefer to focus on my intention to create happy, celebratory moments for my family as a medium of education, and a way of carving out our space with our circumstances.
“If a decorated moon sparks joy in my toddler to look forward to the month of Ramadan, ask me questions, and open his mind and heart to the lessons, stories and memories, then I’ve achieved my goal.”
How to decorate a Ramadan tree:
Some trees come pre-decorated, but if you prefer to decorate the tree together with your family, there are options in the UAE.
Marty recommends Daiso as a place where one can get a range of lights in the shapes of mosques, stars and moons. She drapes her family Ramadan tree with lights, camels and even baubles.
“I grew up with a childhood tradition of new Eid pyjamas and either money or gifts. I keep that tradition in our home. The tree is a place we have all this sitting until the night before Eid, which adds to the excitement of Eid day,” she says.
Other places where one can get Eid and Ramadan decorations, as well as trees, include Amazon, Kibsons and noon.com.