Maryam Yusof of fashion community website HijabLook.com shares her deepest thoughts about Eid ul Fitr.
Unlike the homes of many Singaporean Malay families, you won’t find colourful twinkling lights decorating my family’s windows, or bright green ketupat arrangements made of ribbons adorning our doorway in the days leading up to Hari Raya, what Eid is locally known as. Perhaps the only indication that we’re celebrating Hari Raya would be the spread of yummy cookies laid out neatly on our coffee table.
As a kid, the lack of fanfare and celebratory spirit in my family was never an issue. Raya was a magical time and I always looked forward to it. I would wake up for Subuh and feel like a badass for being able to eat after 5.30am, and put on the new clothes bought by my mother from the Geylang Bazaar. This was typically a baju kurung that matched in style (but rarely in colour) with my sisters, though one year it was a ‘Vietnamese Dress’ that was very popular in the bazaar for some reason.
We would start the day by gathering with relatives at my grandparent’s house and ask for forgiveness from the older relatives. My extended paternal family would then visit my father’s uncles and aunties across the country and we’d travel in separate cars. My cousins and I treated the journey to every house like a race, egging our fathers to dangerously overtake each other and use shortcuts in order to be the first to reach the next destination.
Between stuffing my face with the most wonderful lontong and rendang dishes you could imagine, and the accumulation of green envelopes filled with money in my little handbag, I never wanted Hari Raya to end
Between stuffing my face with the most wonderful lontong and rendang dishes you could imagine, and the accumulation of green envelopes filled with money in my little handbag, I never wanted Hari Raya to end. And the good thing was, Hari Raya lasted for a month. Back then, Hari Raya often coincided with the year-end school holidays and having a stay-at-home mum meant that we were constantly going out and visiting friends and relatives until the end of Shawal.
As I entered my teenage years though, the excitement became lost on me and Hari Raya meant little more than the end of Ramadan. Also, Hari Raya often coincided with my major examinations so I had very little mood to celebrate anything and would look forward to getting home and burying myself in my books (I know, I was such a nerd).
One thing that I still looked forward to though was gathering with the family on the morning of Hari Raya. My extended family met fairly often, yet our gathering on Hari Raya was something of a highlight of the year. We’d laugh with the younger cousins while they played with sparklers (though according to them, these things are called ‘fireworks’) and photograph the entire family dressed in their best. Before moving on to visit other relatives, we’d have the customary forgiveness session that would drive everyone to tears — and I’d realise what was important on Hari Raya.
It wasn’t about being dressed in a unique outfit that you’d had tailormade three months in advance, or hanging up new curtains to match the new bedspread. But it was about family, and Hari Raya is a time for bonding. Ten years ago, it would take my family at least three days to visit the homes of all our relatives, but in the past few years, we’ve been able to visit most homes within a day now that many of our elders have passed on.
Yes, Hari Raya is about celebration — and it is also about appreciating those who are still with us. I didn’t use to see the importance of visiting our relatives only once a year. But now, I have found myself missing relatives that I barely knew on this special occasion.
We should treasure the family that we still have around us and use Hari Raya to strengthen our family ties, put aside any differences that we may have with one another, and forgive. Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya!
Glossary of Terms
- Hari Raya: What Malays from Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia call Eid. Hari Raya literally means ‘Day of Celebration’
- Ketupat: Rice boiled in a pouch of woven palm or coconut leaves
- Lontong: Ketupat eaten in a savoury veggie stew
- Rendang: Rich and savoury dry curry dish
- Geylang Bazaar: A staple Hari Raya bazaar that operates every Ramadhan at Geylang Serai in Singapore. You can find clothes for Hari Raya, hijabs, decorations, home accessories and lots of food here
- Baju Kurung: Traditional Malay outfit consisting of a matching long tunic and skirt for women or matching shirt and pants for men
Tags: Aidilfitri, eid, hari raya
Hari Raya Puasa (Hari Raya Aidilfitri)
The Muslim community in Malaysia and all over the world celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or also known as Hari Raya Puasa, to conclude the Ramadan holy month of fasting. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is regarded as a merry celebration as it marks a person’s triumph and success on discipline and self-resistance which symbolizes refinement and rebirth.
It is necessary for Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan, where they have to maintain their self-resistance in satisfying their basic needs and urges between sunrise till sunset. They abstain from food and drinks, as well as from smoking and sexual relations. It is also important that they keep their minds pure and not harbor any ill thoughts or intentions during this holy month.
The fasting doesn’t deter the celebrants from making preparations to welcome Hari Raya Aidilfitri. The excitement builds up way before the first day, where families start to shop for new clothes, delicacies and goodies and furnish their home with new furniture and decoration weeks. Brightly-colored lights, in the common hues of green, yellow and gold, can be seen adorning the mosques and the offices of government agencies.
When the new moon is seen on the evening of the last day of Ramadan, the fasting period comes to an end. Such sightings are made by religious officials at various hilltops throughout the country and when the crescent moon is seen, the following day marks the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
On the morning of Hari Raya, the men perform prayers at the mosque while children ask for forgiveness from their parents. The little ones will also be given ‘duit raya’ or gifts of money in small green packets. While the first three days of Hari Raya are usually reserved for catching up with the family, many families hold open houses throughout the month where friends and neighbors of other races are invited to share conversation, laughter and a variety of cookies, candy and traditional delicacies.
Ketupat is one of the must-haves at Hari Raya. It is served together with beef rending (beef cooked with coconut milk and malay spices) together with satay (skewered grilled meat). Other delicious delicates are such as lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes), serunding (dry coconut fried with chilli) and curry chicken.
In Malaysia, the first two days are regarded as public holidays but most will take a week off for this celebration. Those working in the cities will return to their hometowns (balik kampung) and reunite with their parents, relatives and old friends in the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, leaving the cities quiet and empty during the festive season (usually there are very good airline deals in the weeks/months before the Balik Kampung period). Although the cities start to be populated again at the end of the week, the celebration doesn’t end there as one month of Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations follow a month of fasting. People continue visiting each other’s homes and throwing open houses until the festivities approaches its end 30 days later. It isn’t often that festivities last for a month long, so take the opportunity to catch up with friends and family while indulging in the various delicacies!