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In Singapore, Hari Raya is a bustling Muslim festival that recognises and celebrates the demonstration of self-restraint during Ramadan, a month of fasting. Literally, Hari Raya means the ‘Day of Celebration’ in Malay, where Muslim friends don new clothes and spend time with their families, following time-honoured traditions.
Hari Raya Puasa (also known as the Festival of Breaking the Fast) is the celebration to mark the end of the Ramadan and typically celebrated for up to a month, over weekends with family and friends. On the other hand, Hari Raya Haji (also known as the Festival of Sacrifice) marks the end of the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and is celebrated about two months after Hari Raya Puasa, later in the year. Since the dates follow the Islamic calendar, the exact dates of the festivals change every year.
On Hari Raya Puasa, you can greet Muslim friends with a friendly “Selamat Hari Raya”, which means “Happy joyous day”.
Joining your Muslim friends for a day of house visiting and feasting? Aside from the delicious festive goodies, learn about the significance of the time-honoured traditions of Muslims during this Hari Raya Puasa…
Hari Raya is a festival symbolising purification and renewal, which goes beyond just a celebration surrounded by loved ones and delicious food. Instead, it is a time to foster relationships between families and friends and it is encouraged for them to forgive and forget all the conflicts they had in the previous year.
The general custom involves younger family members asking for forgiveness from their elders before and during the house visit. They would get on their knees, placing their forehead on the hand of the elders and saying ‘maaf zahir dan batin’ which translates to ‘I seek forgiveness from you in body and spirit’.
The occasion also calls for showing gratitude and is a period where generosity is practised, similar to Christmas and Thanksgiving where people give presents to their families and friends.
Muslims in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia usually gift guests and children green packets, also known as sampui hijau or duit raya. This gesture is unique to the region, mostly influenced by the Chinese practice of giving out red packets during Chinese New Year.
Green packets are also given to the elders in the family as a form of respect. Giving green packets is considered as an act of charity based on the Islamic concept of zakat, whereby money is described as a share of wealth and the obligation towards society. Zakat inculcates an environment of care and concern for one another.
If you receive a green packet, remember to accept it respectfully and with both hands!
Part of the festive celebrations includes “returning to parents’ home” or the “balik kampong” tradition. Extended family members often return to pay respects to their elderly, making it an occasion to gather and reconnect with family members who may have moved further away for work or school.
Most Muslim homes will be crowded and filled with aunties and uncles, cousins and kids. Joyous memories of playing and gathering together help to strengthen familial bonds and kinship. Such traditions bind families and the community, helping us to form our identity and relate to one another.
Marking the end of the fasting month, naturally food is one of the highlights of the festival where Muslim kitchens whip up flavourful traditional home-cooked recipes. Hari Raya foods are typically made from rice because rice such as ketupat and lontong is the main staple food of the Malays.
In the olden days, rendang was a symbol of affluence for a person or community that could afford an entire water buffalo for consumption. Today, it is an anticipated customary and celebratory dish served during special occasions such as Hari Raya and Malay weddings.
During this period, bazaars markets are typically organised in Kampong Glam and Geylang Serai where you can celebrate the “kampong spirit” with bright festive lights and installations. and shop amongst hundreds of stalls for traditional decorations, clothes and feast on Malay snacks.
We wish all Muslim family and friends Selamat Hari Raya!
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