Getting that warm and tingly feeling again
IN the midst of the mind-numbing routine of driving to work, a familiar song comes on the radio.
“Berlalulah sudah Ramadan sebulan berpuasa / Tiba Syawal kita rayakan dengan rasa gembira.” (Ramadan and a month of fasting has passed / Syawal has begun, to be celebrated with joy.)
I instantly feel my lips curling up. The classic song, Suasana Hari Raya, by Anuar Zain and Elina, gets me every time because it reminds me that my favourite holiday will soon be here: Hari Raya.
As I sing along to it, I think about how I usually celebrate the joyous day.
Every night before the first day of Raya, I dream of waking up early, dancing around the house, and waving to my neighbours on my way out to the mosque like people do in the Raya ads.
But of course, that never happens.
“Bangun, bangun! GET UP, everyone!” are usually the first words my siblings and I hear on Raya morning from our mother. We are not early risers, the lot of us .... We haul ourselves out of bed to get ready, dress in our new clothes, pile into one car and drive to the mosque, where we spend a long time (OK, maybe about a minute) looking for a parking spot before deciding to double park like a typical Malaysian. Every year, we tell ourselves that we have to be earlier the next time (yeah, right).
After prayers, we usually head to my maternal grandparents’ home in Kota Damansara, Selangor. As soon as I step into their house, I’m met by the sweet aroma of rendang and lodeh. A cacophony of sounds can be heard reverberating throughout the house as my grandmother convenes everyone in the living room for the customary family photo. Or at least, she tries to.
“Can you all cepat sikit (hurry up)? We have guests coming!” she says every year, usually being the first to be dressed and ready for just about anything.
“Wait, wait, I need to touch up my makeup!” shouts one – sometimes all – of the ladies present.
“Can someone help me with my sampin?” goes one of the men. Usually that’s my grandfather’s cue to step up.
“No, Mummy, I don’t wanna wear this!” cries at least one kid.
“Eh, let’s eat first. I’m hungry!” That’s usually me.
Honestly, this is the best time of the day; my absolute favourite. All of us running around the house in a similar colour theme (you know, to signify our familial bond). It’s chaotic but also wonderful. The atmosphere excites me and, ultimately, spending quality time with loved ones is what truly makes the busyness of the season so meaningful.
Next comes the bermaaf-maafan, forgiving each other for the year’s wrongdoings towards one another.
We believe that by fasting during Ramadan, our sins against God is forgiven, hence what’s left is just our sins against each other. So to “complete” our Ramadan, we seek each other’s forgiveness on Hari Raya morning.
“Selamat Hari Raya, Ummi!” Ummi is what I call my mother.
“Forgive me for all my wrongdoings, including, ahem, especially, the ones that you don’t know of, hehe.”
I repeat this sentence to everyone. To my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Everyone except my sister and brother, to whom I say, “I forgive you”.
And it’s the same every year. Maybe I should come up with a different line this year ....
Traditionally, the bermaaf-maafan session goes hand-in-hand (pun fully intended) with the giving or receiving of duit Raya.
This used to be one of my favourite parts about the celebration until I started working three years ago. Now I also give instead of just receiving – something I am still trying to wrap my head around.
With that said, there’s a lot of joy in giving too, especially to those younger than me.
They have to be nice to me first, of course. “Kalau nak duit Raya, salam dulu!” (If you want duit Raya, greet me first.)
The afternoon is spent entertaining guests and nursing our lethargy after indulging in one or two (or maybe four) rounds of wonderful food.
There’s a wide variety of scrumptious dishes served at my grandparents’ place every year, which includes my mum’s rendang tok, my grandmother’s lodeh, my aunt’s kuah kacang, ketupat, lemang, and jar after jar of homemade cookies.
In the evening, we visit the homes of some friends and relatives where we, naturally, eat some more. Which explains why, by night time, I always feel as if I’ve gained double the weight I lose during Ramadan.
Recalling all this, it suddenly occurs to me how routine my Hari Raya celebration is. Yet it’s something that I look forward to year after year.
Knowing what to expect – the food, the activities, the people – and all the familiarity that comes with adhering to our traditions contribute a sense of comfort and belonging. Just thinking about it as I write this makes me feel all warm and tingly inside.
Touche is a monthly column in which team Star2 shares its thoughts.