Sunday, October 12, 2008

my hari raya experience


In Malaysia, the Malays living in the towns usually go back to their hometown or kampung to celebrate Aidil Fitri. This migration from big urban cities to rural areas is known as the "Balik Kampung" phenomenon in Malaysia.

kueh and pastries in glass containers arranged for aidil fitri visitors
And it is so because it is always multiple the joys when celebrating the Hari Raya Puasa together with parents and siblings. And with two days of official holidays, it’s normally a week of celebrations.

So in the big cities like Kuala Lumpur, the last few days of Ramadan will be a time for traffic jams on the roads leading back to the home-towns and villages. It is also a time when accidents increase dramatically even with increased police monitoring and presence to deter speedsters and traffic offenders.


Well, it’s back to Kelantan for me, to celebrate at the home of my family, as done every year since years ago.

So the day before Hari Raya Puasa, i would pack my bags and take the three and a half hour’s journey from Dungun on the "Balik Kampung" venture.

Here’s a brief description of how i normally spend celebrating Aidil Fitri in Kelantan.


The day starts in the early dawn when my mother wakes up at about 5.00 am to do her "Subuh" or dawn prayers. She also wakes up the other family members for the prayers.

After her prayers, it’s time she does her scheduled chores for the morning, helped by the children. Switching on the radio, the Takbir and joyful Hari Raya songs will be heard, providing the soothing back-ground music, so chores are happily carried out.

Among others, the traditional kueh and pastries are put into glass containers and arranged on the table, with the kettle of tea and coffee or jugs of soft drinks also prepared for visitors.

Mom's will also start warming up the rendang and the kuah kacang (satay sauce), the gravy for the nasi himpit, the family’s main dish for this year’s Hari Raya. The nasi himpit, chicken rendang and gravy have already been cooked and prepared the night before, helped by her daughters and sons-in-law.

Every year my mum alternates between nasi himpit and ketupat as our main dish for the Hari Raya, although once a while she would cook the nasi kerabu.

Well, to continue ...

After the morning bath and the dawn prayers, we will all put on our new clothes of traditional Malay costumes, the baju Melayu and baju kurung and baju kebaya.

Afterwards a little breakfast is taken, since it is advisable to eat as a symbol or gesture that Ramadan or the fasting month is over.


And after the little breakfast, it’s time to go to the mosque for the Aidil Fitri prayers which starts at 8.30 am. Usually I will take my family in the car to the main mosque in the middle of my village.


After Aidil Fitri prayers, back home, there will usually be another round of light eating, to reserve our tummies for the visits later.

By this time too, all other members of the family, about eleven of them, will be at my home congregating for the activities to follow - also a perfect time to take group family photos.

Then it’s time for salam and asking for forgiveness, starting with the patriarch and elders and then with other family members. The younger ones will hold and kiss the hands ("salam") of the elders.

Aidil Fitri is always a perfect time, when all are present, to ask for forgiveness from family members, relatives and friends, for wrongdoings, if any, whether done knowingly or unknowingly.

For the children this "salam" is the time that they anxiously look forward to because with the handshaking, they will be given small tokens of cash known as "duit raya" . Nowadays the duit raya is put into an envelope as an "ang pow" following the Chinese New Year tradition.

Working adults are extra generous on this day, so children can expect to collect substantial amounts when they go round visiting relatives, neighbors and friends.


Perhaps the most joyful session of Aidil Fitri is when we go round in convoys of cars, mpvs or vans visiting the homes of relatives. That’s because Aidil Fitri is perhaps the only time free from our usual daily busy schedules when we could meet with uncles and aunts, cousins, relatives and long-time friends.

At their homes, we will be served with the main dish of the family and of course at all those homes, traditional Malay kueh or pastries abound. Nowadays most of these traditional kueh or pastries are available and bought ready-made at the Ramadan Bazars and shops, although home-made ones always taste more delicious.

Normally the morning visits end at mid-day when there is no more room for any more food or drink in the tummy! Bloated with all kinds of food substances, it’s back to home to relax and rest and maybe take a short nap after the tiring (and filling) rounds.

After the afternoon Zohor prayers, (and the tummy has sort of thinned down a bit), then at about 3.00 pm further visits will be made to about two or three other relatives or friends in town, ending in the late evening, in time for Asar prayers.

Then after dinner and Maghrib prayers, the rest of the night is usually spent watching the many television entertainment shows. It is however common for friends and relatives to come by at night to visit.

And the night time is when children (and also adults) gather and play with sparklers and fireworks, providing the children with the joys of the celebrations. Playing with fires or fiery things at night is always fun for children.

Well, there are more fun and exciting things during Aidil Fitri, like all other festivals in Kelantan and Malaysia, than I can ever write here.

Shawal and Aidil Fitri also means a month of open houses in the towns, and one in which all races in Malaysia share in celebrating, by visiting their Malay friends and neighbors – a Malaysian phenomenon rather unique in this world.

And foreigners and tourists in town usually join in this joyous occasion at the open houses of public officials and state dignitaries, and, of course, of their office friends and colleagues.

Visiting open houses during Aidil Fitri is a valuable and exciting experience no foreigner or tourist in Kelantan and Malaysia would want to miss.


and as always, from me ...


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