Celebrating Eid in Malaysia
On the 8th of August this year, Muslims from around the world will come together to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the fasting month. I myself have bought one of those super expensive plane tickets home (seriously, the flight is only 40 minutes) in a celebration frenzy that can only be described like that of Christmas Eve. It’s one day after, and I’m probably stuffing my face right now as you read this. So I thought, why not share a huge part of my culture with you.
Ramadan and the fasting month
So, like all things in life, the difficult part comes before the celebration (and incredible part). For one month prior, Muslims around the world will fast, or abstain from certain things. There are differences between some of the different sects, but the majority of Muslims around the world do the same thing. Abstain from having anything enter your body from sunrise to sunset. This pretty much applies to eating and drinking…anything. The first week is usually the most difficult (where caffeine deprivation kicks in). But by week two you’re usually already pretty much in the habit of things.
Travelling to Malaysia during this time of the year? The best part of Ramadan is that every day you can find a Ramadan market/ bazaar somewhere near you. It’s the time when everyone becomes an entrepreneur and you can find every type of food from Malaysia’s myriad of lives. Given most of them are entrepreneurs, you could get a hit or miss on this. Good luck.
For those who are not fasting, don’t feel worried about travelling to a Muslim country. In Malaysia, there is a general understanding that we’re not going to force non-Muslims not to eat too. You can find food plentiful all over the place, and nobody is going to stop you from eating. But do show some respect, like avoid licking your ice cream ferociously in front of a Muslim person in the middle of the heat of day, or try to eat before sunset and give your space up for others who are waiting to break fast. It’ll look like a scene from a movie when you see everyone in the food court staring at their food, and then everyone start eating at the same time.
Note: Eid and Ramadan dates tend to move throughout the years, in line with the Islamic calendar
At the end of the month, you would have likely lost a lot of weight, now what do we (Muslims in Malaysia) do to celebrate? We EAT! You wake up in the morning and head to prayers, and after you sit with your family and ask for forgiveness for all that you have done in the past (as opposed to sitting with family and opening presents for the future). There is also typically an exchange of duit raya or Raya/ Eid money given. It’s a token of appreciation and usually gets given to those younger than you. There is no hard and fast rule on how much you give and to whom. But plan in advance, especially if you’re like my family and have over 60 younger cousins, all of whom you are pretty close to.
During the next few days, you usually don the traditional outfit and head out to visit relatives and friends. It usually goes like this a) drive in a convoy with your extended family b) visit relatives c) eat till your tummy gives way d) give duit raya to the younger ones e) go to next house and repeat.
It’s a great time since it may be one of those few times in the year where you end up visiting and meeting up with your cousins. And its great fun at night as well when you sit around (eat, of course) and watch the kids play with small fireworks.
Note: You MUST try out lemang, rendang, ketupat and nasi himpit if possible. Supper yummers!
To perhaps balance both sides of the equation, Eid is also celebrated for about a month. This doesn’t mean that you eat yourself silly every day, or that you get a month long public holiday. What it does mean is that it gives people more time to have ‘open houses’ where they invite friends and family over for a visit (and food!!). It’s a truly marvelous time to be in the country and if you ever get invited to go raya-ing (as we say in Malaysia) Go! It’s a great opportunity to see for yourself the wonderful hospitality of the country.
Happy Eid everyone!
***Note: The celebration of Eid and Ramadan may also differ country to country and culture to culture. If you’ve ever celebrated Eid in a different part of the world, it would be great to hear your thoughts below. Interested in seeing how other Malaysians celebrate? check out Travel Chameleon’s coverage on Malaysians celebrating outside of Malaysia