Eid-ul-fitr, or its Malaysian name, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, is a three-day celebration starting from the 1st of Syawal (the 10th month according to Muslim calendar) marking the conclusion of a month-long fasting called the holy month of Ramadan. Arguably the biggest festival in Malaysia (with Muslims making up 60% of the population), Hari Raya is celebrated extravagantly, with Muslims gearing up for the day by donning new traditional costumes and preparing special dishes to welcome guests to their houses.
Hari Raya is also a time when Muslims seek forgiveness from each other, with the official greeting during the time period being ‘Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin’ (‘Happy celebration day, I seek forgiveness for any physical and emotional wrongdoing’). Cities are usually deserted during the holiday as many folks make the journey back to their hometown in order to celebrate Hari Raya with parents, in-laws and elders. The first morning of Hari Raya is first greeted with a prayer at the mosque, followed by a forgiveness-seeking session between family members at home. A grave-visiting session will soon follow, to recite prayers and remember those who have passed away. ‘Duit raya’ – token sums of money, are given to children by adults, and while this tradition bears no significant meaning in Islam, it is still widely practiced, and amongst children, one of the most anticipated moments of the holiday.
Sales are plentiful during this season, as Muslims prepare themselves for the celebration by shopping for new clothes, textiles and baking supplies. These are the times when Muslims go big – and later go home – with some new furniture, curtains and home appliances to pretty up their homes for the comfort of guests. If you’re hunting for a Malaysian traditional outfit as souvenirs for friends (or yourself!), this is a good time to do so, as prices are marked down and a wide variety are available for shoppers to take advantage of.
Shopping malls are usually colourfully decorated for this occasion, with decorations such as fairy lights, ketupat-shaped ornaments and mock Arabian markets all occupying the centre courts of most malls. Hari Raya songs blare out to further lift the spirits of shoppers, and crowds are massive during the period, especially during the weekends, so utilise public transportation if you’re planning to hit the malls during the shopping period.
Where to shop:
- Suria KLCC
- Pavilion KL
- Midvalley Megamall
- One Utama
- The Curve
- Sunway Pyramid
- Jalan Masjid India and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman are good shopping areas but are not for the faint hearted, as this is shopping under the hot sun, but bargains are plentiful and most goods such as textiles, traditional snacks and attire are sold cheaper than those available in shopping malls
‘Eat and be merry’. This phrase rings true for most celebrations in Malaysia, and especially during Hari Raya, when some of the finest Malay dishes such as rendang, ketupat and lemang are available in almost every Muslim household. If you have the opportunity, be sure to attend an ‘open house’ – an occasion when households open up their doors to friends and acquaintances for a feast – to sample these delectable dishes, as well as getting to know more locals. Traditional malay kuih are also served together with occasional Raya cookies (hence the sale on baking supplies), so it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll never go hungry during Hari Raya. Some even attend open houses every weekend for the whole Syawal month, as open houses are also a chance for friends to meet and catch up, besides enjoying free, delicious home-cooked food.