Saturday, August 27, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya!

It has been Ramadan all month long again. This weekend we are starting a week long holiday off of school and work. A couple of holidays are occuring -- the Muslims are celebrating the end of the fasting with a two-day celebration, and the Malaysians are celebrating Merdeka Day (more on that in another post). We are celebrating the days off by going to Universal Studios in Singapore.

We hit the road today. We hopefully timed it that we are behind the mass traffic exodus out of the city. Part of the tradition of Eid al-Fitr is to go home to one's place of birth, so it's a lot like Thanksgiving in that the whole country is traveling.

I've found it interesting how Ramadan has differed here from Egypt. Just as Christmas is different from culture to culture, so is Ramadan. They have different names here for different things. This holiday is known in Malaysia as Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Though we haven't attended a break the fast as we did in Egypt last year, we have witnessed a lot of people doing it nearby in the mall. About 6pm, the mall starts to fill with people who buy their food, sit at a table, and proceed to stare at it for another hour and a half before consuming -- all the while occupying the table. Outside in the park, the place is filled with picnickers waiting for the signal to begin eating.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the most significant celebration for Muslims, Eid al Fitr, as it signifies the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. It is determined by sighting of the new moon on the day before the next month on the Muslim calendar.

The words ‘Hari Raya’ means 'day of celebration.' Muslims start the day by wearing new clothes and congregating in the mosques early in the morning to perform Hari Raya Puasa prayers followed by visiting the graves of the departed. The young will ask for forgiveness from their elders and have open house for relatives and friends to come to their house. Plenty of traditional Malay delicacies are served during this festive season. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated, and lighting of oil lamps welcomes the angels which are believed to be visiting the earth during the seven days preceding the festival. The celebration lasts for a month but most of the celebration is concentrated in the first three days

The Muslims also give packets of money to kids when they go visiting. The packets are usually green in colour and children often look forward to getting these money tokens on Hari Raya Puasa.

Yesterday I spent the day shopping by myself (Dave has been in Australia all week again) and the mall was packed with people buying new clothing for the holiday (part of the tradition.)

I took this picture of Ethen by a mall display which was selling festive delicacies, new hijabs, and various things. It is a traditional Malay house surrounded by fresh flowers.

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