Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Hari Raya is one of my most awaited events in Southeast Asia. I would go to my Muslim friends’ house and eat and eat as much as I can – uhm, did I just sound like a free-riding cheapskate there? LOL. Nah, kidding aside…the Hari Raya is a special day when Muslims celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan with their families.

Greeting me, greeting you. Hari Raya literally means... “Day of Celebration”. Aidilfitri is the Malay term of the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. Muslims in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei use the greeting “Selamat Hari Raya” while Muslims in Indonesia use “Salam Aidilfitri”. This is also a time for reconciliations and the words...“Maaf zahir dan batin” are added which means “I seek forgiveness with all my being”. “Happy Eid” is acceptable to English speaking greeters.

New stuffs for the kids! Just like Christmas or Songkran, Hari Raya is also most awaited by children. This is the day they get new clothes, new shoes, new PlayStation *that’s for me!* and all sorts of presents. The adults are extra generous by giving small amounts of money they call “Duit raya”. *Ch-k-ching!*

Everybody is in a festive mood! People would be extra happy, extra friendly and seem like they are switched on to shopping mode as well! Big cities and towns would have sale, big promotions, discounts and the malls are playing Hari Raya songs non-stop! TV show extravaganzas and concerts rule the airwaves for the succeeding days.

1 light bulb, 2 light bulbs, 3 light bulbs…City streets transform into a Disney-like feel with all the thousands of light bulbs on just about anywhere they can stick in onto -- like stars descended from the heavens. More traditional families in towns use lamps to decorate their houses at night time.

Traditional costumes galore! It is customary for Malays to wear traditional Malay costumes on Hari Raya. Men would wear “baju” and women would wear “kurung” or “kebaya” – they will take pictures of themselves and post it on MySpace for the entire world to see! I really love it when they flaunt and proud of wearing their traditional costumes! Simply admirable.

Honk! Honk! Most people would hold traditions the best they can. There is “Balik Kampung” which means going back to one’s home town and celebrate Hari Raya with their relatives and childhood friends. You wouldn’t believe the nationwide traffic caused by this mass exodus! Traffic enforcers are on a 24-hour alert!

Come in! Come in! On the eve of the celebrations; mothers, grandmas and aunts are busy preparing food, cakes, sweets and the best dishes – Ketupat and Rendang are on top of the menu. Supermarkets would sell instant-versions of it for the city people. And the most beautiful of it all is the “open house” – where you can just show up to other people’s house and eat to your hearts’ desire.

Behind all this modern celebration of the Hari Raya is an earnest tradition of keeping close to their religion. Muslims would start the day with a prayer at the mosque, visit people who are close to their hearts and be compassionate with all sincerity.

The Hari Raya is truly a Southeast Asian tradition to behold.


* Note: The Eid-ul-Fitr is also a national holiday in the Philippines.


Curbside Puppet said...

like the post. i think it was more meant to non-muslim southeast asia (a.k.a. thailand, burma, cambodia, vietnam, and the philippines -well, northern part that is). i love how you viewed it as their equivalent to christmas.

MischMensch said...

Selamat hari raya~

eyron said...

wow! very informative. you are really good at research hehe

Erique Fat Owl said...

Minal aidin wal faidzin, everyone!

In Indonesia, even non-muslims take this opportunity to seek forgiveness towards each other.

...and as a Catholic, I DO love Idul Fitri (That's how we call it in Indonesia - Aidilfitri is the Malay equivalent), because I, too, can leech off my extended family members who happen to be Muslims for food and moolah (technically everyone who isn't married are bound to be showered with 'amplop lebaran', or lebaran (money) envelope) LOL

I consider myself extremely lucky, because being a Catholic-Chinese-Indonesian with Christian and Muslim relatives, this means I get lots of cash and excellent food no matter who celebrates what. LOL!!

Anonymous said...

It should be 'Selamat Idul Fitri' in Indonesian, or in longer 'Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri'.
Salam Aidil Fitri is so malaysian ;p

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