Muslims celebrate the festival of Aidilfitri – popularly known as Hari Raya Puasa, or simply Hari Raya (Day of Celebration)– to mark the culmination of Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting. It is a joyous occasion for Muslims, as it signifies a personal triumph, a victory of self-restraint and abstinence, symbolising purification and renewal.
The period of fasting ends when the new moon is sighted on the evening of the last day of Ramadhan. If the crescent is sighted, the following day is then declared the first day of Aidilfitri, which is also the beginning of the 10th month of the Muslim calendar- Syawal.
This year, Hari Raya is expected to fall on 3rd or 4th of October. According to my Malay staff, her family and the neighborhoods will start making the traditional ketupat (rice dumplings boiled in palm-leaf wrappings) on the 2nd. The ketupat is traditional Hari Raya fare and is often served with beef rendang (beef cooked with spices and coconut milk) and/or satay (grilled meat on a skewer).
A week or so before the big day, Muslims wash and decorate their houses, making cakes or biscuits, do shopping in search of gold accessories, new shoes and clothing for the very first day of celebrations when everyone wears their best.
In the kampung, there is joy of reunion of family members and old friends. Urbanites or those leaving hometowns make their annual return to be with parents, relatives and old friends. This is popularly referred to as balik kampung (returning to village).
The Hari Raya atmosphere in Betong town is not that obvious. This is because the Muslim population in Betong is relatively small as compared to the other places in the three Southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Besides, most of the Muslims in Betong live outskirt and lead a very simple life. There are only a few Muslim shops in Betong town and the Muslims here normally do their shopping in Yala or the nearby Malaysian towns as the goods are cheaper and have more variety.
In Malaysia, Hari Raya is celebrated nation-wide and as it approaches, shopping centres in the various parts of the country come alive with flowers, lamps, traditional clothes, and of course – the festive goodies. There are festive sale everywhere and the shopping complexes are thronged with families doing their shopping for the festive.
I am back here in Kuala Lumpur for a few days’ work and rest. I am a fast shopper and normally do not go shopping during weekends especially when there is sale (too crowded!). Yesterday, I tried to have some fun joining the crowds. The sad thing is …I lost my mobile phone in the changing room!
(31 October 2005 23:30, K. Lumpur)
Shopping in a Muslim Shop in Betong
I visited a kampung before taking a flight back to Kuala Lumpur. A Malay friend’s house is painted for the Hari Raya and for his wedding after the Hari Raya/His mother is a tailor and these are traditional Malay costumes, Baju Kurung.