by Shahrir Adli
Being a Malay and Muslim in Malaysia, the tradition is that, once a year during the festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, we celebrate the end of the fasting month (Ramadan). During this time, we prepare luxurious festive food such as ketupat (rice cakes), beef rendang and many more to serve to our families and friends. The other important goodies are the "raya cookies". Among the favorites are pineapple tarts, oatmeal cookies, almond cookies and many more.
Why do Muslims Celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri?
During Ramadan, a month in the Muslim calendar, where for 30 days the Muslims have to refrain from eating and drinking form dawn to dusk. This act of fasting is a kind prayer that is a must for all Muslims around the world. It is to remember that in this world, there are people who are less fortunate and poor as they do not have the means to eat and money to spend. So the fasting acts as a reminder to all the Muslims to be kind to other people by giving donations and serving them with food. This act of generosity is promised by "Allah" (God) and they go to heaven.
After the last day of Ramadan, the next day is the month of Syawal. The 1st of Syawal is the day that we Malaysians call it Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri, the day of celebration after a successful 30 days fasting. The celebration starts the night before, as almost all household will be preparing food such as ketupat, beef rendang and others. This is done more frequently in the "kampongs" (villages) where all family members from the city and other places return to the "kampongs" to celebrate.
The morning starts with the prayers at the mosque, as men, women and children will pray together to bid farewell to Ramadan and welcome Syawal, the month of celebration. After that, they will return home and all family members will gather to ask forgiveness, from the youngest to the eldest in the family - that is why you always hear them say "Maaf Zahir dan Batin" (meaning forgive me physically and spiritually). Some who have lost family members or parents will be going to the cemeteries to recite prayers on this day as an act of remembrance.
Then comes the best part - the feast! Abundance of food can be found almost in every house celebrating, where the culture of "open house" is normally practiced throughout Malaysia in the Muslim homes. The open house is a concept whereby Muslim homes will welcome visitors like relatives and friends to celebrate for the entire month of Syawal. This is to promote togetherness and to rekindle the love for other human beings. All kinds of food can be found from the traditional Hari Raya food like ketupat, rendang, lemang, sate (also known as satay) and others...to Hari Raya cookies which are also a must on the tables to be served such as pineapple tarts, kurma cookies, chocolate cookies and layered cake, amongst others.
Some families also invite the less fortunate such as orphans and the needy to their homes to serve them food and hand out donations. All in all, the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration is a day to look out for especially for the Muslims and we would like to think, even though this day is celebrated by Muslims throughout the world, the merriest will still be in Malaysia!
- Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri ! -