Monday, August 19, 2013

Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a religious holiday is one of the biggest holidays in Malaysia. The festival which is also known as Hari Raya Pausa signifies the 1st day of the Muslim month of Shawal, the 10th month in the Islamic calendar. On this day Muslims are not expected to fast, as the day marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Malay translation of the Arabic, universally used term Eid ul-Fitr. In Malaysia, Eid in celebrated on a somewhat grander scale than elsewhere, in fact Hari Raya is not just limited to the customary two or three days like the world over  but seems to carry on for the entire month.

The celebration of Hari Raya in Malaysia has several unique aspects. Some of which are listed below:-

Ramadan Bazaars

The Muslim holy fasting month, Ramadan typically precedes the festival Hari Raya Aidilfitri. During this time all Muslims are expected to fast from dawn until dusk though the very young, old or infirm are excused from this fasting ritual.  

The fasting during also has a purpose for it is meant to teach the person who fasts, patience, humility and sacrifice. Additionally during Ramadan, it is believed that Muslims ask for forgiveness for past sins, as they exercise self-restraint and perform good deeds. 

 At the end of each fasting day, most Malaysian congregate at specially erected grand Ramadan bazaars where they break their fast and partake of the evening meal known as ‘berbuka puasa’. These Ramadan bazaars offer a smorgasbord of sweet and savory delights along with various other knick-knacks and attract Muslims and non-Muslims in droves.

Hari Raya Sales and Promotions

In the weeks leading up to Hari Raya, several malls and shopping complexes throughout Malaysia host grand sale events and promotions to encourage people to make purchases for the celebration of Hari Raya. Like various other festival celebrations, Hari Raya also features the buying of new clothes, gifts and food stuffs. The malls are gaily decorated and play much Hari Raya music to get people in the mood. To uplift the spirits of the fasting public, Malaysian radio and TV also get into the act as they play traditional songs and offer Hari Raya themed programs.

Balik Kampong for Hari Raya

The term ‘balik kampong’ refers to the mass exodus from larger towns and cities as people head home to their families in the countryside for Hari Raya celebrations.  Even non-Muslims head home to loved ones for the Hari Raya holidays as they often participate in the Hari Raya celebrations of their Muslim friends and neighbors.

Preparations for Hari Raya

In days leading up to Hari Raya, houses are cleaned and ingredients for elaborate dishes to be cooked for Hari Raya feasting are assembled.  Most homes in the Malay countryside are also illuminated with traditional oil lamps called ‘pelita’ or ‘panjut’

Hari Raya greetings

On the eve of Hari Raya, Muslims recite a prayer known as takbir at mosques and various other congregations.  As Hari Raya or the ‘Day of Celebration’ dawns, people greet each other by saying ‘Selamat Hari Raya’  or ‘Happy Eid’ Another common greeting is  maaf zahir dan batin” which  somewhat translates as ‘I seek forgiveness from you’, as Hari Raya is believed to be a time for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Hari Raya Rituals

Malays usually sport traditional wear for the Hari Raya festivities. While men wear the traditional garb known as Barju Melayu(a stiff-collared, long-sleeved shirt with trousers), women wear the traditional baju kurung (a long sleeved dress)or baju kebaya( a two piece outfit consisting of a long-sleeved blouse and long skirt). These traditional outfits for Hari Raya are generally festive and colorful and are often fashioned out of traditional textiles like batik or even songket.

After attending Eid prayers in the morning, Muslims in Malaysia also traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones. They usually clean the graves and preform a ritual known as Yasin, which consists of reciting a chapter from the Qur’an and offering prayers for the deceased.

Most families host an ‘Open house’ for Hari Raya, as they welcome their friends (both Muslims and non-Muslims) for the celebration of festival.  Bountiful eats like Rendang, Ketupat(steamed rice cake),  kuihs(traditional multi-layered, colorful cakes) are offered to all those who visit.

Young children especially revel in the holiday, for their parents and elders shower them with token sums of money known as ‘duit raya’.

Fireworks at night usually round up the day of Hari Raya festivities.

The Hari Raya public holidays typically extend over two days in Malaysia and if you really want to see how Malaysia celebrates Eid, you should plan a trip to visit the country, during the next Hari Raya holiday period.

You are sure to be enchanted and delighted by the welcoming nature of the people of Malaysia during the much anticipated festival of  Hari Raya Pausa.

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