Celebrating Hari Raya 2021: A Post-COVID-19 Experience
On 13 May, Muslims around the world will celebrate Hari Raya, or Eid Mubarak, to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting. This year, with more relaxed COVID-19 safety measures in Singapore, many are looking forward to celebrating this festive time with their loved ones. Here we discuss this important celebration and explore some of its key traditions.
Traditional Dress: The Baju Kurung and Kebaya
While food is always a highlight of Eid or Hari Raya, donning traditional dress is something that both young and old look forward to as well. With in-person visits now allowed, it’s an opportunity to bring out the colourful and festive outfits from the back of our wardrobes (or even a good excuse to purchase a new one!)
The baju kurung has existed for hundreds of years and continues to remain the pride and heritage of the Malay community. It is also traditionally worn by women in Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and southern Thailand. A baju kurung is made up of a loose fitting, long sleeved blouse, paired with a skirt. It is meant to be worn loosely, typically for festive events and formal functions. Below are examples of the traditional baju and a modern variation.
Another popular and traditional outfit is the kebaya, which has a robe-like look, with the front often secured with either buttons, pins or brooches. There are many versions of the kebaya across Southeast Asia. In fact, it is considered the national costume of Indonesia.
Time to Start Baking!
Hari Raya is also a time for baking ‘kuih raya’. ‘Kuih’ is a Malay word for sweet dessert or cookie and raya is of course from the word Hari Raya itself. The process of preparing the ingredients and baking with family members is always something that we look forward to, and is a sign that Hari Raya is close. Indeed, you know when Raya is just around the corner when you start smelling home baked cookies from your neighbours’ houses, with each following their own unique kuih raya recipe.
In the past, traditional kuih raya were made in large quantities, using complex recipes that required precision and patience. Over the years however, these biscuits are sometimes replaced by other cookies and treats. Here are the three types of kuih raya, which you can find in almost every household celebrating Hari Raya. It is certainly a tradition in my family to bake all of them:
1) Pineapple Tart
This classic, melt-in-the-mouth kuih raya is a buttery pastry topped with pineapple jam, which is usually homemade for a thicker consistency. It makes an appearance at many festive occasions in Singapore, including Hari Raya and Chinese New Year.
2) Kuih Suji
Kuih Suji, or Sugee Biscuit, has a light and crumbly pastry, with ghee as the main ingredient. Pale cream in appearance, the ghee gives it a rich and buttery flavour. Two important ingredients that I use are semolina flour and ground almond, which is coarser and gives the cookie an extra crunch!
3) Honey Cornflakes
A simple, but (for me) very nostalgic treat that gives a sweet and sticky crunch when you bite into it. Made of cornflakes, butter and honey, it is a crowd favourite.
Impact on Relocation Programs
In general, Muslim countries will see businesses, shops and local authorities closed on the first and second day of Hari Raya (although official closures vary from country to country). Assignees should be mindful of these closures and expect delays in responses from business contacts.
Do's and Don'ts
Should you be invited to a Muslim’s home for a celebration, and plan to bring a gift (although not mandatory), do make sure it is halal-certified and avoid alcohol. We also recommend that you dress modestly, or perhaps even don traditional clothing like the baju kurung!
Assignees based in Singapore can enjoy the 40 installations of street lighting and colourful decorations that stretch from Paya Lebar Quarter to Sims Avenue, as well as the roads along Changi and Geylang. The lights are switched on daily at sundown, from 7pm to midnight, with hours extended until 6am on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Be sure to catch them!
Wishing everyone a blessed Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya!