The end of the fasting month of Ramadan brings about a discombobulated atmosphere. In a good way. You will see the majority of the population going about in huffs and puffs of hasty preparations to welcome the Islamic calendar month of Syawal, known as Eid or locally known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri. After piety observance of diligent fasting by those of the faith for an entire month, it’s time for them to spend another month on forgiveness, sharing and cherishing bonds with loved ones. In a celebratory fashion, of course, with open house galore to share the happy festivities with friends and neighbours.
If you happen to be in Melaka and invited to a Hari Raya open house, do make it a point to join in the merriment with these handy tips to keep social gaffes at bay:
WHAT TO EXPECT
A heavenly, food coma inducing spread which normally consists of:
- Rendang (Chicken or Beef slow cooked in a thick gravy of spices),
- Ketupat (Rice dumpling in a diamond-shaped palm leave “pouch”),
- Nasi Impit (Compressed rice – an easier version of Ketupat),
- Lemang (Glutinous rice and coconut milk cooked in a hollowed bamboo),
- Kuah Kacang (A spicy peanut gravy, usually served with either Ketupat or Nasi Impit),
- Satay (Grilled marinated meat on skewers)
- Assam Pedas (Fish cooked in a spicy and sour gravy – popular in Melaka) and,
- Raya Cookies (an assortment of delicious traditional and modern cookies).
Yummylicious food awaits!
So many varieties of Raya cookies to sample.
Over-zealous hosts who keeps plying you with food, cookies, beverages and anything edible: Just keep a polite smile plastered to your face, keep nodding and you’ll be fine.
A medley of joyous noise: From different sources – firecrackers, excited hosts, gossip queens, happy guffaws, kids shrieking in excitement and many more. All in different decibel levels of chaotic harmony. Just take a deep breath and take it all in.
A hullabaloo of excited babble
Holding rockstar status for the day: They will all want to know “Where are you from?”, “Are you enjoying Melaka?”, “Why do you smell funny” and the list goes on. It might be a good idea to play a recording of expected answers so that you can enjoy the festivities a little longer.
Here’s a more visual explanation on what Hari Raya Aidilfitri means and how it’s celebrated:
THE 411 OF RAYA ETIQUETTE
- Wear modest clothing and be presentable (read: no shorts, mini-skirts, ripped jeans – you get the picture). Try and get your hands on a Baju Kurung (either traditional or modern) or Kebaya for females, while guys can wear a long-sleeved shirt or Baju Melayu set (wear the top at the least). Your host will be grinning like the Joker for making an #OOTD effort.
You will look great in either the (L-R) Traditional Baju Kurung, Kebaya or Baju Kurung Modern
The chaps have a choice of wearing the (R) Traditional Baju Melayu with Sampin, or the modern version (L).
- Knock on the door and wait for your host to welcome you into their home or venue of their open house. After which, remember to remove your shoes (socks are okay to leave on) before entering their home as a sign of respect.
- “Salam” with your hosts. It’s a handshake gesture albeit a softer version. Extend your palms and“sandwich” it between whomever has extended theirs. Retract back and bring your hands to your chest for a second. Yes, a very touchy-feely handshake this is. If instead they place their right hand on their heart while nodding to you instead of extending their hands, you should do the same. And remember to SMILE and wish them SELAMAT HARI RAYA.
An easy enough gesture to master.
- Since your host’s home will be bursting with guests, family and relatives, it’s wise to wait for their invitation for your turn at the dining table. Invite people to eat before you attack the spread in front of you.
- When eating or receiving anything, use your right hand. It is generally rude to use your left hand as it is considered unclean.
- Come with an empty stomach as your host’s mission is to feed you until you feel like a beached whale.
Food coma is common during this season. Just ensure you don’t pass out at your hosts table.
- Before leaving your hosts – thank them for their amazing hospitality, wish them “Selamat Hari Raya” again and say “Mohon Maaf Zahir dan Batin” (forgive my physical and emotional wrongdoings). Can’t remember? Well, then bookmark this article and open it before leaving. Problem solved!
- Polishing off the food and cookies without any consideration to other guests. All you’ll get are raised eyebrows and that persistent tick on the side of your hosts face (cue slipper slap to cheeks).
- We know it’s hot and humid, but requesting for a cold can or glass of alcohol is taboo. Anything other than this your host will eagerly comply, as long as it’s not excessive.
Your host losing it
- Overstaying your welcome is an absolute no-no. As tempting as it is to stay for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper; it’s best to leave when more guests arrive to make room for them. Even if your hosts insist you to stay on (normally, politely refuse and make your way to another open house for more Raya goodies.
- Being glued to your phone while sitting in a corner will upset your hosts. Return their hospitality by trying to engage with their guests and anyone seated within an earshot. Who knows? You might meet a local celebrity and get to brag about it with a wefie on Instagram.
Human interaction is better than cyber connections
- Meddling questions will result in a flying kick in the *ahem*. Stick to generic topics, although some makcik’s and pakcik’s (elderly aunts and uncles) would ask YOU very personal questions. Again, just grit your teeth and give fake smiles.
WHERE CAN YOU GO?
- Kampung Morten – someone will definitely invite you over while you pretend to take a stroll in front of their house.
- A host of open houses from Melakan government agencies (26 June – 14 May 2017). Invitation is to the general public, so here’s your chance to experience Hari Raya, on a much larger scale.
At the end of the day, as long as you keep yourself in check and observe decorum, you’ll have a fantastic time being part of this lively, happy month of celebrations. Oh! And here’s the most popular Hari Raya song that you will hear wherever you go, millennium version.