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Balik Kampung Oh Oh...

by on 12/06/2018 107

In a blink of an eye, here we are just a few days shy of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid al-Fitr). After a month of fasting, prayers and introspection over the holy month of Ramadan, buzzing food bazaars, and Yusuf Taiyoob advertisements on the local radio, Muslims are ready to break off for the one of the most important religious holidays. The exact day of celebration varies as it is based on the sightings of a new crescent moon by local religious officials.

 

Fasting does not dampen the excitement leading up to the celebrations and celebrants are most definitely energetically gearing up for the upcoming visitations. The hustle and bustle schedule of events stretches from baking Raya treats and a festive home makeover to shopping for new clothes and planning for the trip back to the hometown. There is no better way to get in the holiday mood than to galivant the streets of Ramadan bazaars and soak up the atmospheric hues of Raya, or more so the scrumptious aroma of ikan bakar (grilled fish) and ayam percik (roasted spiced chicken). This ebullient season is filled with performances and workshops in malls and local craft complexes. If you have missed out on most of such events, there are still some traditional music and dance performances, and craft demonstrations scheduled to take place this week at Mid Valley Megamall.

 

 

It is of strong cultural mandate to go home for the holidays, as belted out on Sudirman’s classic tune “Balik Kampung” (“return to the village”). The festive exodus back to everyone’s respective hometowns leaves most parts of the city centre free of congestion, an occurrence that will literally only happen twice a year. Festivities start with special morning prayers at the mosque, while donning new traditional cultural clothing. It is customary to visit all loved ones and seek forgiveness from the elders, greet one another with “Selamat Hari Raya” (“Happy Hari Raya”) and “Maaf Zahir dan Batin” (“I seek forgiveness for any physical and emotional wrongdoings”), hand out green packets containing money to children and the elderly, and also pay their respects to the deceased at the cemetery. It would not be a complete Malaysian celebration without a feast. A lavish spread containing traditional delicacies such as rendang (beef stew), satay (skewered meat), ketupat (cubed rice), lemang (bamboo rice), serunding (meat floss) and kuih-muih (variety of desserts) are indulged. It is all about enjoying good food with even better company. I guess we would be eating nothing but salad and sprouts in July.

 

  

For some, Hari Raya remains a working day; some countries observe it for a few days; here, it is celebrated with great pomp and festivities can last up to a month. Visitations renew relationships and bring about all races and religions. Just a few simple pointers on etiquette. When visiting, do greet your Muslim friends “Selamat Hari Raya” and dress modestly. While guests are not required to be enrobed in traditional cultural clothing, leave skimpy pieces and anything too revealing for the next party. Hosts do not expect any gifts from visitors. However, if you cannot shake off mum’s advice to never show up empty-handed, edible gifts make a good option. Handmade or lavish, at all costs, avoid alcohol and pig products. Your host may love you and you may love your host, know when it is time to go and do not overstay your welcome. You know as they say “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days”. Sometimes, it does not take three days.  

 

The imperative to balik kampung for Hari Raya can be exhausting and stressful. Whether you are embracing new traditions and spending Raya abroad or just headed home to the warm waves of nostalgia, do plan early, prep well and stay hydrated. Selamat Hari Raya!