Many Muslims enjoy the part and parcel of Ramadan, but they enjoy the reward of it even more. Wonder what that is? It’s Hari Raya Puasa!
Also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, it is a significant day of giving gratitude to God, but also a day of forgiveness and homecoming. On that day, you will see delicious food and kuehs piled on the tables, ready for guests to gather and feast. You might also notice the beautiful, glossy baju kurung and baju melayu worn by those on their way to visit their relatives. Celebration aside, have you ever wondered what are the customs and traditions of Hari Raya? Let our handy guide to the customs and traditions of Hari Raya Puasa enlighten you.
If you’re visiting your Malay Muslim friends during this festive period, you can greet them with a cheerful “Selamat Hari Raya!”, which means ‘Happy Hari Raya’. Otherwise, “Eid Mubarak”, which means ‘Blessed Celebrations’ is another greeting Muslims use on this day. The term has its origins in the Arabic language. Hari Raya Puasa is also known as the festival of Eid. As the day is also about forgiveness, guests can follow with ‘Maaf Zahir dan Batin’, which loosely translates to “I seek forgiveness from you”.
2) Hari Raya Puasa prayers at the mosque
The day of Hari Raya Puasa for Muslims begin with a visit to the mosque, where special Aidilfitri prayers are recited. As the day is about humility and gratitude, Muslims are required to also give a donation to the needy and less privileged. It is known as ‘zakat fitrah’ which is collected by the mosques and then redistributed.
3) Visiting family, relatives and friends
Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore might just be one official public holiday but the day of Eid actually a month-long celebration known as Syawal. In this month, house visitations go on during the weekday evenings and weekends. While the first day is set aside for visiting immediate family, subsequent weekends are used to visit distant relatives and friends. If you’re a non-Muslim guest visiting your Muslim friends, dress modestly (see the next pointer!) and if you want to bring something as a sign of hospitality, sweets, cookies or kueh are always appreciated! Alcohol, however, is a strict no!
During this festive day, Muslims dress up in new clothes to visit their relatives’ homes. You might have seen the beautiful, brightly coloured traditional attire worn by the Malay Muslims. The women wear the baju kurung, and the men wear a baju melayu. It is very popular to dress the entire family, including the little ones, in the same colour or pattern nowadays! As a guest, you do not have to wear traditional attire, and can opt for Western style clothing, as long as it is neat and not too revealing. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your pants or skirts end below the ankle, whereas the tops should cover the shoulders.
During this day, expect to see traditional delicacies when you visit your Muslim friends’ homes. Dishes such as the highly anticipated Ketupat, sticky rice wrapped into triangular coconut leaf parcels, is usually served with chicken satay ( grilled skewers) and a thick peanut dressing. Or perhaps you’ll want to pile on the Rendang, an aromatic beef curry, slow-cooked with spices and herbs. This is a dish that takes hours to cook and sometimes even involves the entire family. Other rice dishes such as Lontong, a coconut soup with melt in your mouth pieces of rice, crunchy lemongrass and bamboo shoots, or Nasi Lemak, coconut rice served with fried anchovies, also makes its appearance. Apart from the rice, who can ignore the variety of colourful, sweet and enticing kueh-mueh? You’ll see the Dodol, a sticky, toffee-like candy made with brown sugar, a hit with the children, served, as well as other goodies like pineapple tarts, cookies, and the layered cake Kueh Lapis.
6) Festive money or ‘duit raya’
If you have a young child visiting your Muslim friends with you, they might get a colourful green packet, or duit raya. Some token money is placed in green envelopes and given to visitors. Usually, it’s the working adults who will give this money to young children, or even non-working adults. This notion of money gifting is a symbolic gesture of giving from the heart, and amounts can vary.
7) A time for forgiveness
As mentioned, Hari Raya is a time for asking forgiveness for any wrongdoings. Children of all ages may bow and kneel, whilst kissing the hands of the elders to ask forgiveness. They may then ask for blessings at the same time, while their elders would reciprocate with blessings and kind words. This can be a very emotional time as people think of their misdeeds in the past year, and ask for forgiveness.
With this handy guide to Hari Raya customs and traditions, you should understand a little bit more about this celebratory festival beyond fasting and iftar. Till then, happy Ramadan to our Muslim friends! We look forward to celebrating Hari Raya Puasa with you.
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