Manal Aman at her Hello Holy Days! booth at NSS
When Manal Aman grew up, she liked the colors, friendly characters and symbols associated with the year-end holiday season.
“I asked, ‘Why don’t we celebrate Christmas?’” Aman said at her first-time Hello Holy Days! exhibition booth at last week’s National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center, where she displayed her line of Muslim holiday merchandise.
“I felt like I was missing out on something, and didn’t want my niece and nephews to feel the same way—so I made it festive for them!”
Aman launched Hello Holy Days! near Toronto in 2016 as a Canadian website providing North American Muslim parents with fun crafts and ideas for Muslim holidays. An arts and crafts hobbyist since childhood, she’s now making the most of her knack for illustration and design: At NSS, she displayed her self-developed line of 21 greeting cards and related product geared for the Muslim-American consumer and relating to the holy days of Ramadan and Hajj as well as the two major holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
“It’s inspired by Christmas, and is basically what happened with Hanukkah,” explained Aman of her catalog. “Jews celebrate Hanukkah differently in America than they do in Israel, same as Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day differently than they do in Ireland.”
She pointed to her colorful “Happy Ramadan” drummer banner, hanging on her booth’s wall along with an Eid Mubarak garland (“Eid Mubarak” is a traditional Muslim greeting during Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr) and festive wooden balls.
“It’s my own invention of a drummer based on a real tradition, but I’ve given it a particular look the way Santa Claus was given a look by an illustrator,” Aman said of her Ramadan drummer. “In olden days, they had to have a drummer to wake people up in the morning so they could start fasting an hour before dawn during the month of Ramadan. Now we have alarm clocks, but I’m reminding people of our past and teaching children about it.”
Her Ramadan drummer is also a Santa-like character who “plays music for the children every night and encourages them to do good deeds--instead of just bringing presents,” she said.
Also hanging on her NSS wall was a Muslim holiday countdown calendar--comparable to an Advent calendar--with similar rectangular “windows” representing each day leading up to the holiday, which when opened contains small gift items or treats. Other Hello Holy Days! goods include gift wrap and gift bags.
As a youngster, Aman subscribed to home décor magazines while her peers subscribed to teen magazines. She worked at lifestyle magazines while a student of architectural history (focusing on Islamic art and architecture) at the University of Toronto, then worked for major Canadian women’s magazines Chatelaine and Canadian House & Home.
“I made DIY crafts for holiday stories and Muslim holidays, and we’re beginning to get some representation in mainstream media for them,” Aman says. She now freelances for magazines as a craft stylist, and joined Martha Stewart Living’s team as a digital contributor.
“The response to my Muslim holiday crafts made it clear that I needed to address the problem that many American Muslims have in making the holidays festive at home,” she says.
So Aman devised and conducted an extensive survey of Muslim moms in Canada, the U.S. and U.K., in order to better understand their needs. She found that Muslim holidays don’t have set colors, symbols or traditions that kids can get involved in; that since moms juggle so many things at once, it’s difficult to find time and energy to focus on the holidays; and because Muslim holidays follow the lunar calendar, the dates tend to creep up on moms, leaving them unprepared.
Hello Holy Days!, then, looks to solve these problems.
“Currently my site is under development while I get my new stuff loaded onto it,” said Aman, who mostly sells wholesale. “Beginning mid- to late March I’ll have the option for customers to shop online as well .”