Find out about Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia and celebrate this important occasion.
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Hari Raya Aidilfitri or ‘Eid al-Fitr’ (Arabic language) is the day that Muslims celebrate to mark to the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. The fasting is usually done for 29 or 30 days, from dawn-to-sunset. Besides celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri (one of the biggest and most important days for Muslims), this is the only day (the first day of the month of Shawwal) that Muslims are not permitted to fast.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri takes places on the first day of the month of Shawwal according to the Islamic calendar. Despite only the first day of the month being the official day of celebration, there are 2 official public holidays given in Malaysia. Preparation for this big and important occasion takes place months before the actual date. About a month before this day, the Ramadan period will see food bazaars being set up (to help the Muslims to break fast at the end of the fasting period for the day) and malls decorated with oil lamps and colourful lights.
Similar to other major religious / racial occasions in Malaysia, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the time when people travel back to their hometown for a family reunion (usually staying there for a few days). During this period of time, traffic jams are usually seen on roads leading out of the city while the roads in the city are definitely less congested.
On this day, there will be a lot of house visiting of relatives and friends to celebrate this joyous occasion with greetings of ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ and also feast on traditional Malay delicacies. Children are also usually given green envelops filled with some money from their parents or older relatives. This is also a time when friends and families practice compassion as they seek forgiveness from one another.
One of the most iconic dishes during Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia is the ketupat. Ketupat is a type of rice dumpling that is packed inside a container made from woven palm leaf. This container is unique in its own way that it is diamond-shaped which is said to allow the rice to “breathe” while at the same time preventing contact from insects. The origin of this dish is said to go all the way back as a form of preparing cooked rice and storing it for a long time without spoiling for the seafarers. To eat it, the ketupat is cut open and the woven palm leaf is removed. It is usually eaten with other gravy-type dishes.
If you are looking for a meat-based dish during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, rendang is the dish that should be in at the top of your list. Rendang’s origin can be traced back to the ethnic group of Minangkabau people in Indonesia. This delicious spicy dish is usually prepared during festive occasions and can come in various meat variations with the most popular choice being beef and chicken. This dish also comes in 2 types: dry rendang or wet rendang. The difference is wet rendang still retains much of the coconut milk liquid.
If the rendang dish is too heavy for your liking, satay is another meat-based dish that you can consider. Satay is basically a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat served with sauce (usually peanut peanut sauce). In some cases, it is also served with small portions of rice (ketupat), onions and cucumbers. Similar to rendang, you can also enjoy this dish with different meat variations with the popular options being beef, lambg, goat or chicken. One of the best places to get this delicious and light dish is in Kajang, Selangor.
Another popular rice dish that you can see during Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia is lemang. Unlike ketupat that is packed inside a container made from woven palm leaf, lemang is made from glutinous rice, coconut milk and salt. It is then cooked in a bamboo stick that is lined with banana leaves. This is to prevent the rice from sticking to the bamboo. Once the lemang has been cooked, it is then usually eaten with a meat and gravy based dish such as chicken curry.
Now that you know the Hari Raya Aidilfitri dates, traditions, beliefs and food in Malaysia, it is time to start making plans for a wonderful holiday.