Hari Raya nostalgia

From Wikipedia

Hari Raya Aidilfitri (also Hari Raya Puasa, literally "Fasting Day of Celebration") is the term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Hari Raya is also known as Lebaran. Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore celebrate Eid like other Muslims throughout the world. The term "Hari Raya" literally means "Day of Celebration" — it is also occasionally used to refer to Eid ul-Adha in the form of "Hari Raya Aidiladha". The main greeting used by Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore is "Selamat Hari Raya" which means "Happy Eid" in Malay. Another greeting is "maaf zahir dan batin" which translates loosely to "I seek forgiveness (from you) physically and spiritually", for Hari Raya is a time to reconcile and renew relationships with others.

During the Muslim month of Ramadan leading up to Hari Raya, it is mandatory for Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk. All Muslims except the young, old or infirm must fast. Many Muslims also abstain from pleasures such as cigarettes and sexual activities during the daylight of the fasting month.

I think I started fasting since I was 5 or 6 years old. During my early years of fasting I can fast only for half a day before I get really hungry and break my fast early in the afternoon. When I was 7 to 9 years old I begin fasting for a whole day but then sometimes I regularly drank while in the shower cause you know lah I’m still a kid and I get awfully thirsty at times. Even then I only drink water from the pipe and never eat in the open cause I’m still embarrassed of my family or everybody for that matter. It’s quite normal really, I bet everybody did that also when they’re a kid rightttt? Come on la, don’t tell me you fast the whole month when you’re seven?

Anyway I started fasting seriously when I was in high school in Machang. It’s only during the fasting month that the food improves a bit. Instead of the usual ikan gaban, we’re treated with extra special menu for the whole month. That’s why I always look forward for the month of Ramadan in school.

On the eve of Hari Raya, Muslims will recite the takbir, which is held in mosques and surau (smaller place of worship). In some communities, there will be congregations reciting the takbir from house to house.

In big cities and towns, shopping malls and commercial centres will hold big promotions and price discounts for festive shoppers as people purchase clothes and supplies. Decorations are hung in public areas and Hari Raya songs will be played in shopping complexes. The media, such as the television will host various programs in conjunction with the celebrations.

Like every other kid I look forward to Hari Raya because that’s the time when my parent bought me new clothes and I get to receive a lot of duit raya afterwards. But now that I’m all grown up, married and working, the table had turned and now I’m responsible for buying new clothes to my kid and giving out duit raya to the kids in my family instead. Sigh.

Many people also traditionally return to their hometown generally from big metropolitan cities to rural areas. This is known as balik kampung — literally going back to one's home town to celebrate Hari Raya with family and friends. At many times, the flux of vehicles on the roads nationwide increased the number of car accidents, including deadly ones, occurring during the festive season. Road safety campaigns are often launched by the authorities ahead of the festivities in the effort of lowering the discomforting number of accidents.

For 24 consecutive years or so balik kampung to me could only mean going back home to my beloved Pasir Mas town. But that all changed three years ago after I got married. Now I had to take turns to balik kampung between Tanah Merah and Pasir Mas. I don’t remember how but somehow Linda managed to make me balik kamping to Tanah Merah for two years running. So this year we will be celebrating the 1st of Syawal in Pasir Mas no matter what. No offence to the people of Tanah Merah but nothing compares to Hari raya in Pasir Mas. The anticipation, the takbir, the family members, the atmosphere is simply magic!

Usually on the eve of the celebrations, family members, especially mothers and housewives, will be busy preparing food, cakes, sweets, biscuits and various delicacies to be served on the day of Hari Raya. Delicacies such as ketupat or rice cake and a meat cuisine called rendang are among the most famous cuisines that are served during this day. Other family members will help in other chores such as decorating and cleaning up the house.

I remember the time when I used to help mother make various types of cookies and biscuits for Hari Raya (especially my favourite pineapple tart). For berbuka I get to eat my favourite ayam percik dish and onde-onde, washed down with ice cool coconut drink. Ah those were the good old days. Today my mother don’t make cookies anymore and we usually buy them from super markets since it’s more convenient.

Days before Hari Raya, house compounds, particularly those in the countryside will be lit up with oil lamps known as pelita or panjut. This display of oil lamps will reach its height on the 27th night of Ramadan, called the Tujuh Likur night. 'Likur' literally meaning a figure between 20 and 30, hence 'tujuh likur' means twenty seven. Originally during the early days of the arrival of Islam among the Malays, the purpose of lighting the oil lamps was to attract spirits and angels to descend to people's homes during the night of Lailatulqadar. However after ages has passed, such misconception is regarded counterfactual as much understanding of Islam were obtained. Nowadays the oil lamps are lit solely for decorational purposes.

Actually the Tujuh Likur night was not widely observed here in Kelantan compared to other states. We didn’t lit much oil lamps or pelita, instead we prefer to go to the mosques and madrasah to pray by the bundle.

It is customary for Malays to wear traditional Malay costumes. The dress for men is called baju Melayu while the women's are known as baju kurung and baju kebaya. Traditional textiles such as songket and batik are worn favourably during this day.

Muslims will attend Eid prayer in the morning and consecrate together harmoniously while taking the chance to meet and greet each other. Once the prayer is done, it is also common for Muslims in Malaysia to visit the grave of their loved ones. During this visit, they will clean the grave, perform the recital of the Yasin — a chapter (surah) from the Qur'an and also the tahlil or prayers for the deceased. All these are done in hope that their loved ones are blessed by God and they are spared from the punishment in the grave.

Every year after the Hari Raya prayers at the mosque, my family would all go visit my great grandmother’s grave without fail. We would clean up her grave a bit and read the Yasin and then head to my aunt Yati’s place who cooks the best nasi kerabu ever.

The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives or serving visitors. Hari Raya is a very joyous day for children for this is the day where adults are extra generous. Children will be given token sums of money, also known as duit raya from their parents and elders.

Don’t know why but nowadays I’m just too lazy to visit my relatives or friends house. Unless of course my mother made me visit one or two really close relatives. Usually they came to me and it’s the only time of the year I get to see my relatives since I do come back only once a year.

During the night, there are often celebrations with sparklers and firecrackers, albeit restrictions on playing firecrackers enforced by the authorities. Most firecracker stocks are purchased and smuggled illegally from black markets. Safety issues, especially among children are raised and alarming cases relating to injuries caused by playing firecrackers are often reported, which initially led to the banning of playing firecrackers. Despite of the enforcement of banning firecrackers, more Malay children turn to home-made firecrackers such as meriam buluh (bamboo cannon) as alternatives to commercial fireworks. Usually the lighting of firecrackers begins a few days before the end of Ramadan, and continues for about a week afterwards.

It’s relatively easy to get firecrackers in Kelantan especially in Pasir Mas cause were situated near the border to Thailand and they were smuggled by the busload into the state every year. When I was a kid I used to save my school allowance to buy those sparklers and firecrackers. One year I saved so much and bough so much firecrackers my drawer is filled to the brim with them. On the eve of Hari Raya I would lit most of them up and fill the house with so much smoke people thought our house was on fire!

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