This month, Muslims around the world come together to celebrate the most important date on the Islamic calendar. Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa (known as Eid al-Fitr throughout the world), marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadhan and is a joyous occasion filled with festive cheer, merriment, forgiveness and togetherness.
While Ramadhan is a time of spiritual reflection, devotion and worship, with Muslims cleansing souls and purifying minds by abstaining from pleasures and other worldly activities, Hari Raya stands as a victory of having gone through this ritual, and a triumph of discipline and self-restraint.
It is the sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadhan that signals the onset of Aidilfitri, which falls on the first day of Syawal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. Although the festival falls on two main days, celebrations extend beyond this, with open houses the whole month long.
Time To Rejoice
Excitement for Hari Raya builds up during the final few weeks of Ramadhan, and while Muslims fast, they also prepare for the festival with much anticipation. Families shop for new clothes, delicacies and goodies while decorating their homes and furnishing them with new fittings. Brightly coloured lights, commonly in hues of green, yellow and gold, can be seen adorning homes, mosques and buildings.
When the first day of Hari Raya does arrive, it’s a busy one with Muslims rising early to perform prayers at mosques. Everyone is dressed in their finest traditional garb; baju melayu, songkok and samping for men, and baju kurung or kebaya for women. Following the mosque, visitations are made to the graves of loved ones to pay homage to their departed souls. Then it’s onwards to visit immediate and extended family, usually congregating at a senior family member’s home where familiar ties and bonds are renewed and forgiveness is asked.
Hari Raya Exodus
While millions of KL citizens make the annual pilgrimage back to their hometowns to be with loved ones for the festive period. This mass exodus of people making it a great time to beat the crowds and take in the sights and attractions of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer.
Part and parcel of the celebrations are the feasts shared with loved ones while rejoicing. Home-cooked spreads with delicacies like ketupat (a type of rice dumpling housed in a diamond-shaped container of woven palm leaf pouch), beef rendang (beef cooked with coconut milk and spices), lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes), and serunding (dry coconut fried with chilli) are some of the traditional foods widely savoured.
Sweet treats are out in full force as well, particularly the vast variety of kuih (pastries and cakes) and cookie jars full to the brim with delights. Meanwhile, it is also tradition to hand out duit raya (green packets filled with money) to children and visitors to the home.
The Open House
Another tradition that goes hand in hand with Hari Raya is that of the open house. Throughout the whole month of Syawal, Muslims open the doors of their homes to welcome people from all walks of life, regardless of religion, race or social background, to join in the celebration.
Make sure to take your shoes off before entering a home, and then enjoy some food and good company while you celebrate with the hosts. Each year, the King of Malaysia hosts an open house on the palace grounds. For many, this is the only opportunity to visit the stately Istana Negara and be in close proximity to His Royal Majesty. Commonly held on the first day of Hari Raya, keep an eye out for more details on the event closer to the date.
Know Your Lingo
Throughout the festive period you’ll come across a number of Raya-related terms and phrases you may not know the meaning of. Here are some of the most common:
• Hari Raya Aidilffiitri – The Malay term for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadhan
• Selamat Hari Raya – Translates to ‘Happy Eid’, however ‘Hari Raya’ literally means ‘Day of Celebration’. It is the main festive greeting used by Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore.
• Maaf Zahir Dan Batin – Translates to ‘I seek forgiveness from you for my physical and emotional shortcomings’.
• Balik Kampung – Translates to ‘Return to Village’ and is the term given to the exodus of Muslims to their hometowns during Hari Raya.
• Duit Raya – The Malaysian custom of giving and receiving of money via little green packets during Hari Raya. It is also an adaptation of the Islamic duty of zakat, a pillar of Islam which requires followers to donate to the needy.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
When: 5-6 June