Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hari Raya Fests - Private

More relaxed atmosphere @ home
Yesterday I discussed public Hari Raya fests. Today, I want to describe those fests held by individual families at their houses.  Of the two, I prefer the private ones since it allows me to visit the homes of colleagues and friends and, potentially, see them in a more relaxed setting.  This is not always so, however, depending upon how formal the family makes their open house, and how many other people have been invited.

Children of a colleague
For example, this year I attended 17 different Hari Raya open houses of which only two were public fests.  The other 15 were all hosted in different homes and varied greatly in the formality and the number of people attending.

For example, in the house of one older man with whom I use for Malay language practice, only three of us were in attendance (including a housemate of his).  Despite their poverty, the two men had made an effort to make their simple abode presentable, putting out furniture that is normally in storage, and a simple set of snack items.  We chatted amiably for around 40 minutes and then I left for another house.

At the house of a female colleague, I got the date wrong.  She had invited me for a Monday earlier, but then changed it to the following Sunday with me still thinking it was Monday.  Still, they were polite and gracious and I didn't discover my mistake until about 20 minutes into the visit!  Malays are very hospitable and easy-going and so the visit went well.  My wife and I were later invited back to the Sunday get-together, which was quite formal and crowded, but I enjoyed myself more on Monday when the family was informally dressed, relaxed, and visiting with ME only.
Banana chips

Of course, unlike the public fests where multiple choices of food are served, private open houses offer a more limited set of food.  Still there are some good eats, and usually include snack items - biscuits, banana chips, tarts, small pieces of cake - and simple noodle and/or rice dishes.

Hari Raya open houses begin on the first day following the end of Ramadan.  Called Hari Pertama (First Day) and Hari Kedua (Second Day), these open houses tend to be the most formal.  Politicians and Sultans host quite large gatherings that can run in the tens of thousands of attendees.  Following the first two days, which are national holidays, further open houses tend to be hosted on subsequent Saturdays and Sundays.  Many of my colleagues balik kampung (return to their home villages, i.e., parents' homes) for the first two days of Hari Raya.  After coming back from their home villages, they may or may not host in their own homes depending upon whether or not they have a house to host in.

I particularly enjoy interacting with the children of colleagues.  Hari Raya is a joyous time for most of them; fireworks are shot off or waved around (boys) or new clothes shown off to friends (girls).  I like to bring balloons to some houses as these prove to be a big hit with the 2, 3, and 4-year-olds.  I can see why Hari Raya carries such warm memories for Malay families.


  1. Yes,
    That's the way to do it.. bring something (no need to be expensive) for the children..balloons are good. interact with them.. the Malay kids unless in and with their peer group.. tend to be shy.. break the ice.. then enjoy !!!

  2. hi,
    I've read all your posts and really enjoy it. You're welcome here.


  3. Well, thank you Wan Sharif and haly; I do feel welcomed.