The end of the fasting month brings plenty of family time, food and celebrations
Hari Raya Aidilfitri — which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan — literally means ‘day of celebration after the fast’ and is one of the most important religious festivals in Malaysia.
In the month leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Muslims carry out charitable deeds, giving to those in need, and seek spiritual renewal. Having fasted from dawn to dusk, the daily breaking of the fast come evening is an event in itself. As dusk descends, crowds throng the lively street-side Ramadhan bazaars and lavish buffet spreads at hotels in search of traditional Malaysian favourites with which to break their fast.
Hari Raya is also a time for forgiving and sees an exodus from the capital city as Muslims return to their hometowns all over the country. This act of forgiving and seeking forgiveness among kith and kin is played out in all Muslim households on the morning of Hari Raya, to seek pardon for any transgressions that may have been committed over the year.
This is a time too to be dressed in finery for as dawn rises on the day, men and boys attend the Hari Raya prayer wearing their best baju melayu, which consists of a top and trousers. The womenfolk, in the meantime, busy themselves at home, wearing their finest baju kurung, as they finalise preparations for the feasting that lies ahead. Visiting family and friends is a highlight, especially for children, as they are often given duit raya — tokens of cash placed in green envelopes — by their elders.
The holding of ‘open houses’ is an important tradition during Raya, as friends and relatives flock to each other’s houses to wish each other well, and enjoy fellowship and food. For city-dwellers (and visitors), the Hari Raya open houses hosted by the King and the Prime Minister of Malaysia are particularly popular. Thousands of guests from all walks of life attend these open houses in hope of getting to greet their distinguished hosts, as well as enjoy the festive spread.
This much-loved traditional Malaysian practice of marking Hari Raya Aidilfitri with open houses where everyone is
welcome, and merriment and forgiving the order of the day, is where the generosity, warmth and hospitality of Malaysia is especially evident.