What’s so special about this weekend?  A good question for family and friends. One answer is that there’s an alignment of dates determined by the moon which only happens once every 33 years. Halfway through Ramadan, it is also Good Friday, Easter and Passover: three major festivals in the calendars of the Abrahamic faiths.

All three festivals are falling halfway through April, all about spiritual progress, sacrifice and suffering, release and renewal of faith, forgiveness, and new starts. The dates of all three are literally ‘movable feasts’ that change every year so coinciding in 2022 has to be special.

Passover is always in the first month of the Jewish calendar and usually in March or April. Depending where you are in the world, it lasts seven or eight days and there are dietary restrictions like refraining from consuming leavening in bread and other foods, and a special family meal called a seder is held on the first night of Passover when the Jewish people renew their faith.

Easter Sunday is always between 22 March 22 and 25 April and determined by the moon, it is always the Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox which announces the northern hemisphere Spring and southern hemisphere Autumn.

Easter is preceded by 40 days of Lent, a period of preparation similar in many ways to Ramadan in which Christians traditionally fast as a reminder of the sacrifice made for them. Traditionally, the fast allowed only one meal a day taken in the evening and meat, fish, eggs and butter were forbidden – hence Pancake Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent. For many nowadays, Lent is reduced to abstaining from indulgences like chocolate, alcohol or social media and fasting on Good Friday.

For the people of these three related faith traditions, the closeness of our holy days this year is a good reminder of our connection to each other and the ways in which our stories and cultures overlap.

Across Australia there are many interfaith and intercultural iftars, large and small, big community events or cosy home invitations, taking place this month. All of them are a special opportunity to share food from our different traditions and stories from our different backgrounds and to take steps towards greater understanding and appreciation for cultures, identities and religious traditions different from our own – without diluting our own identities or traditions to appreciate someone else’s.

I didn’t start out to write a sermon or a history lesson! But celebration of difference makes us more interesting to each other not less and it’s what motivates Recipes for Ramadan

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been hit by Covid and flu making the iftars I can attend this weekend all the more special.  Here, I’m going to share links to the recipes for some of the foods I know I’m going to be enjoying – and trying out myself.

Thursday night 14 April, I was at Mayor Khal Asfour’s Canterbury Bankstown Iftar. The Fattah and Znoud el Sitt were standouts so over the weekend, I’m serving up the Sharouk Sisters’ Fattah and Hoda Hannaway’s Znoud for my own family.

Znoud el Sitt – special occasion sweets made all the more special with rose petals

Friday night is a fundraiser for Mahboba’s Promise to support widows and orphans in Afghanistan. I’m going with some new friends who were evacuated from Kabul last year and can’t wait to try Farukh’s recipe for Bolani, a stuffed flatbread which is one of Afghanistan’s national dishes. If you decide to try it too, while you’re cooking, you can meet Farukh and her brother Rahmatullah in ABC Radio National’s program Soul Search and revel in what great additions they are to Australia.

Saturday night, my husband and I are invited to the home of new Recipes for Ramadan contributor, Kiran Afzal. We can’t wait to try her Fruit Chaat and Dahi Baray which are an iftar tradition in most homes in Pakistan and Northern India.

Sunday, I’m thinking I may do Omar Jamal’s Jordanian Lamb and Eggplant Maqluba. Flipping Maqluba onto the serving dish is always a special family moment.

Omar Jamal’s Jordanian Lamb and Eggplant Maqluba – much loved in Ramadan and another way to do lamb for Easter Sunday

Then Monday, we’re invited to a wonderful international culinary spread at Amity College with students and parents cooking for a special small iftar event laid on to introduce new mayor of Liverpool, Ned Mannoun to the diversity of the school’s community.  The menu and cooks-cum diners include Lina Jebeile’s Lebanese Hummus, Beyza and Mehmet Koca’s Ali Nazik, Fathia Abdullah’s Somali Pilaf Rice and Sueda Ugurlu’s Japanese Coffee Tapoica Pudding.

In between all that eating, good food and great conversation, we’re hoping as a family to get to Ramadan Nights, the Haldon Street street market in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, and to the Most Blessed Nights’ Street Food Market which is on in Liverpool’s Macquarie Mall every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April. The return of both night markets will shine a light on local businesses many of whom have been affected by Covid lockdowns over the past two years.

I hope your long weekend is special – and wish you and your families a healthy covid-free time with family and friends. Hard to believe but it even looks set to stay rain free on the east coast!