HARI RAYA: A SEASON TO CELEBRATE

Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Hari Raya Puasa) is celebrated to signal the end of the most Holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Marking a month of determination, good deeds and self-discipline, Hari Raya Puasa symbolizes refreshment and rebirth.

Abstaining from eating and drinking doesn’t stop the excitement from building before Ramadan comes to a close; from delicacies to decorations, families start to shop for the big occasion throughout the final days of fasting. Brightly coloured lights illuminate mosques and government buildings in green, yellow and gold, the common colours of the festival.

At Hari Raya, home is truly where the heart (and stomach) is; it is a precious time to welcome family and friends by hosting an open house, in the true tradition of wholesome Malaysian hospitality. Of course, this means some of the best home-cooked food you’ll ever taste!

Ketupat, the symbol of the season, is compact rice packed inside a palm leaf pouch and essential eating at Hari Raya, complimented with beef or chicken rendang and satay. Lemang, the sticky rice staple cooked in a bamboo stick lined with banana leaves, is another firm favourite, served with serunding, a popular dried, seasoned meat snack that is basically a Malaysian ‘meat floss’. Sayur lodeh brings an Indonesian influence to Hari Raya Puasa; a creamy coconut milk-based dish with vegetables including eggplant, chillies, tofu, tempeh and occasionally turmeric. For dessert, don’t forget dodol, a splendidly sweet treat made from coconut milk and cane sugar, stirred in a wok with rice flour for up to nine hours!  Kuih muih, one of Malaysia’s most favourite foods, can be found in many sweet and savoury varieties too.

Aidilitri celebrations last for up to 30 days after the end of Ramadan, and it is important to observe certain customs when visiting a Hari Raya open house. First, dress the part: Malays may wear traditional baju melayu with samping,or jurah; visitors should wear smart-casual and respectable clothing.

Typically, duit raya (an adaptation of the angpau or money packet) is expected as a gift for any children present at the party. If you are taking your own children, make sure they know never to extend their hands expectantly for it! They should thank the host (of course) and pocket the packet to be opened back at home. Sweet treats are a go-to gift; if you’re really unsure, channel Valentine’s Day vibes and bring flowers and chocolate! Make sure everything is halal (‘permissible’ in Islam). Be certain to shake the host and hostesses’ hand when arriving and leaving the party; sounds obvious, but don’t sneak away, no matter how big the party or busy the hosts. It is also considered good form to ask for forgiveness by greeting friends and family with “maaf zahir dan batin” (‘I seek forgiveness from you’), in the spirit of reconciliation.

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