The Muslim holy month is upon us once again. Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Aidilfitri marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – a period of deep spiritual reflection and fasting that takes place every year. During the entire month of Ramadan, which occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, able-bodied Muslims are obligated to abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes, immoral acts and anger. Doing any of those things invalidates your fast day, and you would have to start over the next day. Muslims also view this time to be one of spiritual discipline, where one is expected to focus more on charity, patience and being grateful for what God has bestowed upon them.
But before you draw conclusions that the entire month of Ramadan and the celebrations that follow are serious and boring, it’s really anything but! It’s a time of celebration and joy meant to be spent with loved ones. Hari Raya is a religious holiday where everyone comes together for big meals with family and friends; loved ones may also greet each other with bountiful and specially crafted Raya hampers and gifts or flower delivery. Do be mindful not to confuse between Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji – they’re different days of celebration! Hari Raya Haji is celebrated at the end of the Hajj (or prigrimage), 70 days after Ramadan. Hari Raya Puasa celebrations typically last up to 30 days, whereas Hari Raya Haji celebrations last up to 4 days. In Singapore, Hari Raya Puasa tends to be celebrated on a bigger scale than Hari Raya Haji. Think the annual Hari Raya Bazaar at Geylang Serai and the Hari Raya Light-Up!
Why do Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan?
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam along with the testimony of faith, prayer, charitable giving, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. It is a time where Muslims seek to be more pious and spiritually close to God. Some Muslims may spend more time in the mosque or reading the Quran during the holy month. This practice of fasting serves both spiritual and social purposes: to remind one of his or her frailty and dependence on God for sustenance as well as to illustrate what it feels like to experience the hunger pangs of the poor and to feel a sense of compassion and duty to help the poor and needy.
Ramadan is considered to be a very auspicious and most scared month of the year for Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad reportedly said, “When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened; the gates of Hell-fire are closed, and the devils are chained.”
Muslims also believe that it was during Ramadan when the first verses of the Quran were first revealed. Laylat Al Qadr or “The Night of Power” is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. This celebration commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, 13 years before he migrated to Medinah. He received the revelation while he was in one of his frequent retreats in the cave of Hira’ in the outskirts of the city of Mecca.
What do Muslims traditionally eat during Ramadan?
During the fasting month, meals are served before sunrise (suhoor), and after sunset (iftar). Meals are also taken with family or with the local community.
Suhoor should be a hearty and healthy meal to provide much needed energy throughout a day of fasting. It ends when the sun rises and the morning prayer begins.
At the end of the day, when the sun sets, the day’s fast is broken with iftar. Many Muslims break their fast by eating dates. This tradition is rooted in the religious teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. It is said the Prophet Muhammad would break his fast with a date and a glass of water before praying, and then would have a light meal. The Prophet was quoted as saying: “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates; but if he cannot get any, then (he should break his fast) with water, for water is purifying.” Muslims try to keep iftar meals to be light and full of fiber, proteins and complex carbs. In a move to promote healthier eating during Ramadan this year, the Health Promotion Board, Singapore has also been working with mosques to serve healthier food options, such as brown rice and beverages with less sugar, such as iced lemon tea and roselle.
Hari Raya Celebrations in Singapore
Hari Raya Puasa is a time to celebrate the victory of completing the fasting month and the overcoming of personal struggles during Ramadan. It is also observed as a time of feasts, homecoming, contemplation, forgiveness, reconciliation and the strengthening of bonds amongst family members and relatives.
It is important that guests feel welcomed and at home when visitations occur during Hari Raya Puasa. Spring cleaning and anything that needs fixing should be fixed before guests arrive. So if the walls need a bit of a spruce, it’s time to whip out the paint brushes. Many will also flock to the popular Geylang Serai (as known as the heart of Singapore’s Malay community) to source for new carpets, cushions and curtains! A fresh start is not complete without new clothes. On the days of Hari Raya celebrations, Malay families would dress in their finest traditional garb such as the Songkok and Baju Melayu for men and Baju Kurung for women. Most families will opt for similar colour themes to signify familial bonds and ties.
Increasingly, many are also opting to buy their outfits online which may offer prices way cheaper than shopping malls. Online fashion stores/labels such as Zalora and Petra offer stylish and beautifully curated pieces catering for every budget. These online platforms also offer a wide array of choices of stylish outfits from modest fashion to a contemporary take on traditional costumes.
Not everyone can afford a wardrobe overhaul for Hari Raya each year. Thankfully, projects like “Gift-A-Kurung” have helped the underprivileged, who cannot afford to buy new Hari Raya outfits, to do so through donations of unused and trendy Baju Kurungs.
Balik Kampung (meaning going home or homecoming in Malay)
During Hari Raya Puasa, everyone returns to their hometowns to celebrate the occasion with their families. In Singapore, first-day visits are usually set aside for the immediate and extended family. Everyone will come together at a senior family member’s home for a time of fellowship and feasting. One of the sentimental traditions observed during Hari Raya is the time where everyone in the family asks for forgiveness from each other. “Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Batin” is a greeting which is normally heard by the person asking for forgiveness during this season is translated as “I seek forgiveness from you in body and spirit.” Hari Raya festivities go beyond just celebrations, it is also meant to bring about reconciliation and fostering relationships between families and friends.
Green packets are generally given to children and young adults who are not working. While guests are not expected to give out green packets during visitations, they are welcome to do so, especially to young children, if you’re presently working. Green packets can also be given to the elders of the house as a form of respect.
Hari Raya goodies and traditional home-cooked meals
This is something that everyone has been looking forward to – the much awaited feast! There will be tons of glorious food that we will be gorging our faces with during the festive period. We have compiled a list of the most traditional goodies and anticipated dishes served during Hari Raya below:
This sticky sweet dessert is made from coconut milk, cane sugar, and rice flour. During the entire cooking process, the dodol must be constantly stirred in a big wok. It certainly takes a lot of time and effort to make this delicious treat! Besides this common brownish dodol, there are many other available flavors like durian and jackfruit
2. Kuih Raya
Every year, we can observe many innovative recipes created for new Hari Raya goodies. You’ll find it difficult to refrain from indulging in sweet treats and cookies during Hari Raya. Some of the most popular and most searched Kuih Raya goodies include cheese tarts, honey cornflakes, chocolate cornflakes, makmur biscuit, semperit susu, mazola biscuit, sarang semut, rolled pineapple tarts and almond London cookies.
But for those who want to try something different, KitKat has just released a range of locally-inspired chocolates as part of their premium Chocolatory range. Some KitKat variants include traditional nasi lemak, onde-onde, milk tea with rose, honey cornflakes amongst other flavors.
3. Kueh Lapis
Kueh Lapis is a layered pastry made from thin alternating sheets comprising of butter, eggs and sugar. This layer cake comes in other alternative flavors such as prune, durian and even Oreo!
This is a dish made up of rice cakes in a mixed vegetable curry dish, stew or as a side dish with peanut-based sauces. This dish is a staple at many homes in Singapore during Hari Raya. In Singapore, lontong is commonly added to sayur lodeh (a mixed vegetable curry consisting of cabbage, long beans and tofu cubes), with the final product also referred to as lontong.
Rendang is another popular dish during Hari Raya. Rendang is a preparation of beef, duck, or chicken stewed in coconut milk and spices over a few hours. This dish is rich in flavor due to the spices used such as ginger, chilli, galangal (blue ginger), lemongrass, garlic, shallot, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. Rendang is almost always found on the dining table during Hari Raya and every family usually has their own unique secret recipe.
6. Ayam Masak Merah
Ayam Masak Merah literally has the meaning “red-cooked chicken”. This is a dish of chicken coated with spicy tomato sauce which is popular in many Malay households. Don’t let its fiery red appearance scare you; the colour is a result of the tomato puree and tomato ketchup used!
Sharing the Hari Raya cheer: Joining in the celebrations with your Muslim friends
If you happen to be invited to join in the Hari Raya celebrations, do keep some things in mind. Avoid wearing too revealing or loose-fitting clothes when you visit your Muslim friends during their open houses. There aren’t any dress-codes or auspicious colours to follow, so feel free to wear any colour you desire.
Hari Raya is also a time of giving! Muslims are increasingly giving flower bouquets and Hari Raya hampers to their loved ones and corporate partners. It serves as a nice gesture of peace and goodwill. At 24Hrs City Florist, we are dedicated to helping you celebrate this important festival for Muslims around the world. With varies Hari Raya hampers to choose from and a wide variety and assortment of halal goodies, you’ll no doubt be able to find the perfect gift to celebrate the festivities without unnecessary inconvenience. Do remember to place your orders one week before Hari Raya for prompt deliveries before Hari Raya itself!
Put a smile on your host’s face by presenting them with gorgeous Hari Raya flower decorations such as a bloom of brightly coloured eustoma and lilies. Be sure to include your own personal message with this personalized Raya gift idea.
Last but not least, indulge in all the yummy food and enjoy the festivities! But remember, tempting as it may be, try not to wipe out an entire tray of kuih raya all by yourself. On the other hand, declining to partake in the lovely spread may also hurt the host’s feelings. Do have a small bite at least; we’re sure that you’ll enjoy the feast!
Wishing all our Muslim friends, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!
Written by: Krystal Loh