Raya 101

Raya Eid-ul Fitr isn’t a foreign festive season for those living here in Malaysia. We know that the celebration is coming up when radios start blasting ‘Yusuf Taiyoob’ ads, which are the infamous dates from the Middle East, and speakers begin blaring out Raya songs in shopping malls. It is the joyous occasion where families and friends from near and far get together to ask for forgiveness from each other and strengthen the bonds between one another. But why do people celebrate Hari Raya in the first place?

Each year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated on the 1st of Syawal, which is the 10th month in the Islamic calendar, right after the fasting month named Ramadan. It is a season to celebrate the struggles and victories of overcoming one month of abstinence from hunger or any form or wrongdoings. During Ramadan, Muslims are instructed to fast from sunrise until sunset. In Malaysia, this usually lasts for about 13.5 hours, but the duration varies for each country. For instance, those living in Russia must fast for 20 hours whereas those living in Argentina only have to fast for 11 hours. That’s a 9-hour difference! 

Before stepping into Hari Raya, each family will usually do a full-on spring cleaning of the house, cleaning the curtains and washing cutlery and glasses which will be used to serve guests coming to their houses during Raya. It is when the whole house gets into ‘hustle mode’, where every single family member is simply busy preparing for Raya. Typically, shopping malls will also be filled with people – especially when the end of Ramadan is near – looking for clothes and buying groceries to cook during open houses. Furthermore, massive sales around the country increase the busyness of shopping malls! With the convenient Internet and countless shopping sites, some also prefer to browse through and purchase their outfits online in the hope that their deliveries reach in time for the celebration. 

Hari Raya starts off in the morning with Raya prayers at mosques. Then, donning fresh, new and fashionable outfits called ‘baju raya’, families will gather together to have a ‘salam’ session, where everyone asks for forgiveness from one another before the elders proceed with giving kids their long awaited ‘green packets’! The green packets are usually given by those who are married or working to their younger relatives. However, do be aware that some are not comfortable with shaking hands with the opposite gender, so a simple smile will suffice. After that, everyone will enjoy a feast which traditionally consists of the ketupat, lontong, pulut, chicken curry and a couple of other mouth-watering side dishes. The first day of Raya is reserved for visiting one’s own families, both near and extended, and will just be a day to catch up with one another whilst indulging in yummy food prepared at each house. The upcoming Raya days will then be open for visiting other families and friends. 

During the night, families can watch numerous fireworks being lighted and colourful displays illuminating the night skies. There will be kids running around and playing with their ‘bunga api’ or mini fireworks. Some will still be visiting houses at this time; it can even last until midnight!  

When we think of Raya, the things that will pop up in our minds are ketupat and other delicious cuisines, baju melayu and baju kurung as well as green packets. However, to me, the best part about this joyous occasion is spending it with your loved ones, both family and friends, regardless of age, race or religion.  

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all our Muslim friends!

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