10 things you should know about celebrating Hari Raya in Singapore

June 14, 2018
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    Ramadan is coming to an end and celebrations loom for a segment of the Singapore population. Hari Raya Puasa festivities are among the many aspects that make Singapore a diverse and lively country to live in. Here’s (almost) everything you need to know about it.

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    Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslims all over the world on of the first day Syawal (the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendar). In Singapore, it is commonly refered to as Hari Raya Puasa.

    “Hari Raya” means Celebration Day in Malay while “puasa” translates to “fasting”. It is also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

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    In Singapore, 15% of the population identify themselves as Muslims and 13.4% of residents are Malay (in fact, about 99% of Malays in Singapore are Muslims), according to the Singapore Census of Population 2010 so most Eid celebrations in Singapore are largely rooted in and tied to Malay traditions with strong Islamic foundations.

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    Muslims fast for a month prior to Eid during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar) from dusk till dawn. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it done for atonement and to express gratitude and empathy for the needy. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and it is a day of celebration.

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    In the 1960s, the first day of Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore was determined by moon sightings and announcement were made on the radio to declare if the new moon was sighted.

    But as the years go by, authorities rely on astronomical calculations instead and the date for Hari Raya Puasa is known in advance every year.

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    The first day of Hari Raya Puasa, Muslims in Singapore flock to the mosque in the morning (usually the mosque closest to their home) to offer special Eid prayers to commemorate the festival.

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    This is followed by a day of visiting family and relatives for the rest of the day in beautiful traditional Malay baju kurung (traditional Malay costume for men and women) and kebayas (for the ladies).

    It is a popular practice for family units to be dressed in the same colour/hue as they go about their visitations – you can easily spot them everywhere in Singapore.

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    At each home visit, visitors are treated to a spread of delicious Malay food such as ketupat (diamond-shaped rice dumpling wrapped in woven palm leaves), lemang (pictured, cylinder-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves), lontong (rice cakes served with coconut-based soup with vegetables) and rendang (spicy meat dish).

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    Children receive “duit raya” (which means festive money) in cute little colorful envelopes from adults after seeking forgiveness. It is considered an act of charity to give “duit raya” to kids and the elderly.

    The general consensus is that you no longer receive duit raya when you enter the workforce and you are expected to give duit raya when you become a working adult. There are no rules about how much to put in the envelopes either (the idea is to give from the heart), but generally the amount is higher if you are close to the kids’ family members.

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    Besides feasting, Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore is also a time for forgiveness.

    Family members seek forgiveness and blessings from each other, starting with the young ones approaching the elderly. Tears are often involved among adults.

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    In Singapore, Hari Raya Puasa is a public holiday for just one day but celebrations go on within the community throughout the entire month of Syawal. House visitations often continue on the weekends and sometimes even on weekday evenings. Feasting, seeking forgiveness, and giving duit raya are carried on during the month-long affair.

    While the first day of Hari Raya Puasa is usually focused on visiting immediate family, the subsequent weeks are centered around visiting distant relatives and friends.

    A version of this article first appeared on Singapore Women’s Weekly.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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