Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Malay term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Hari Raya is also known as Lebaran. Muslims in Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore celebrate Eid like other Muslims throughout the world. The term "Hari Raya" literally means "Day of Celebration". 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.

Ramadan is the name of the one-month fasting period when Muslims fast for a period of almost 12 hours. They fast from dawn till sunset. During the period of fasting, apart from eating and drinking, Muslims are also forbidden from smoking and having sexual relations. Only the young, old and infirm are excused from fasting during this month. Muslims are expected to avoid lying, breaking promise or cheating during the month of Ramadan. The primary purpose of fasting during Ramadan is to remind all Muslims of self-control and submitting to Allah, the holy one. Even young kids are taught to fast when they are young.

Hari Raya is a very important occasion that is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. It is also known as the festival that marks the end of one month of fasting. Many mistake Hari Raya Adilfitri for the Muslim New Year but it is not.

In a country like Singapore where there are a number of Muslims, Hari Raya preparations can be seen at least one month before the festival. Geylang Serai, the place that is known for the Muslims to gather, is always filled with large crowds during Ramadan. Bazaars would be set up and they would be selling numerous festive items for Muslims. Carpets, clothes, bags, food, music CDs, household items and VCDs would also be sold at Geylang. At night the place is lit up with glittering lights. There would also be a wide variety of food which would be sold at the fairs and they include kuehs, otah-otah, cakes, buns, breads, curry, noodles and even curry puffs. Most of the Muslims shop here to get the food to bring home to eat when they are breaking the fast. The time when the Muslims break the fast is usually around 7:15 pm.

Celebration for Hari Raya starts at least a month ahead, during the fasting period of Ramadan. Women start to sew beautiful curtains and buy new clothes for the family. Some families also do renovation for the house so that the house would look better when the guests visit it during the festival. After fulfilling their one-month of fasting, the Muslims would be joyful to celebrate Hari Raya. On the morning of the festival, the Muslims would wear their new clothes and go to the mosque to pray. They offer their thanks to God and after that they would ask for forgiveness from their elders. This is an important custom followed by the Muslims.

They feel that the young ones asking forgiveness from their elders is very essential. On the day, they also visit their relatives and friends to celebrate the happy occasion. If you visit Muslims' homes on Hari Raya you can expect to taste a wide variety of delicious spicy dishes. Some favorite dishes that can be found in Muslims homes on this special occasion are ketupat, lontong, nasi padang and beef rendang. The Muslims also have the habit of giving packets of money to kids when they go visiting. The packets are usually be in green color and children often look forward to getting these money tokens on Hari Raya Puasa. Overall, Hari Raya is a delightful festival for the Muslims.

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 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.

Many people also traditionally return to their hometown generally from big metropolitan cities to rural areas. This is known as balik kumpung — 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.

On the 1st day of Hari Raya, the Muslims would wear their new clothes. The ladies, in particular, would wear lovely new baju kurong.

As the 1st day of Hari Raya is a public holiday, Da and I arranged to meet my mother and my brother for lunch. As we drove out, I gasped. A street sign had crashed into a neighbouring home, destroying the fence.

I asked Da to stop the car by the side of the road so that I go nearer to the "crash site" to take photographs. I guess someone had a drop too many last night and drove up the kerb.

In honour of Hari Raya, my family decided to eat Muslim / Indian-Muslim food today. Da ate the mee goreng - sedap!

I ordered the mee hongkong - equally delicious!

As we were relaxing and chatting after brunch, we decided to have a cookout for dinner. So off we went to Giant Hypermarket to look for groceries. As we were walking down the aisles, I caught my mother's hand in excitement. I had spied Lewis Hamilton! (heehee....)

After the grocery shopping (we forgot that it was "Bring Your Own Bag Day" and we were expected to make a donation if we wanted plastic bags to be supplied to pack our groceries), Da and I went to the gym while my mother and brother went home to rest before dinner.

After the gym session (I must admit that I was a little lazy and we exercised for only about 35 minutes), we proceeded to my mother's home. The cooking preparation had started. My youngest brother was the Head Chef for the night.

We decided to cook Indian-Muslim food. As the kitchen is rather small, we had to make do and kept getting in each other's way! It was all in good fun.

First up, curry chicken. My family only uses Baba's curry powder. Did you know that the recipe for the curry powder came from Da's friend's aunt in Malaysia? The company apparently bought the recipe from her and is paying her royalties (or something along those lines).

My mother had marinated some chicken wings and we decided to fry the chicken wings instead of baking them. mmm... very appetising!

We had bought a whole batang fish from Giant Hypermarket, so we cooked a fish curry. I suggested adding some fresh lemon juice to make the gravy zesty.

The next dish is a recipe that I learned from Da's friend (may he rest in peace). I could not find any mustard seeds (sorry, pal, for modifying your recipe!) so we settled for cumin seeds. The cabbage looks yellow because it is fried with tumeric. Add salt, pepper, sugar, garam masala and paprika to taste.

Burp! No dinner would be complete without after-dinner drinks and makan kechil. So, we shared a mocha cake that I had bought from NTUC Supermarket the other day.

We also ate the gula melaka agar-agar that I made.

(For the recipe for gula melaka agar-agar, please refer to

My mother was given some Chinese tea leaves from China, so my brother brewed a pot of tea. The tea is very smooth!

To all my Malay / Muslim friends, SELAMAT HARI RAYA ADILFITRI!

(1) Wikipedia

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