Those who have visited this South East Asian destination in the past few weeks have been treated to the spectacle of the nationwide celebrations of ‘Eid al Fitr’ or as they call it here, ‘Hari Raya’ holiday.
‘Hari’ means ‘day,’ ‘raya’ is festive or celebration. Back in the day, Hari Raya was a small affair marked by prayer, visits to the mosque and spending time with family.
Today thanks to the growth in Malaysia’s prosperity the festival has evolved into a lavish, week-long celebration.
This August it was a particularly special occasion since Malaysia's Independence Day (Merdeka Day) and Hari Raya were only one day apart on the festive calendar. Yesterday I attended my first modern day ‘open house’ celebration where the holiday’s original spirit of giving is transcended to give the ‘communal meal’ to friends, family and even strangers off the street!
With full-blown catering, waiters, huge gazebos and smorgasbords of a visual encyclopaedia of Malay food, this definitely looked like a wedding rather than a small family gathering.
You can’t help but wonder whether it also gives families a chance to show off their status symbol, the latest expansion to their bungalow or a newly renovated interior…
As an onlooker, I was especially interested in the external influences: the Arabic tradition and attire, English ‘jollyness’ and Bollywood visual splendour. Also the Raya custom of giving children small red and green envelopes with money closely resembles the Chinese New Year traditions of giving ‘angpaw’ or ‘hongp pau’ which means red envelope.
Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Merdeka Day!!!!