Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!
Today, I got to fully experience the festival of Hari Raya with many of my host family's family members and friends. Around the world, Hari Raya is more commonly known as Eid al-Fitr. First, in the morning, my host brother took Max and me to his mosque. While Max and I weren't able to go into the mosque area, we were allowed to watch the people pray from a distance. We were also allowed to take pictures and videos (which are further down on the post). I am glad that I was allowed to watch the prayers because I really feel like I learned more about the religion after seeing the prayers in person.
Then, after driving for about one and a half hours out of Ipoh into rural Perak, we arrived at a host cousin's house. There, we ate traditional Raya food and received duit Raya, the traditional gift during Hari Raya. Duit Raya are little paper envelopes that have money inside them. Afterwards, we got to watch small fireworks being set off, which was kuat (LOUD!!!). Finally, Max and I got to talk to the host cousins, uncles, and aunts about Hari Raya while they asked us about our lives, programs, and experiences in Malaysia.
As I've been writing this post on the ride back home, I've had some time to reflect on my first Hari Raya experience, and I've noticed my expectations for this day did not completely match up with the reality of the celebrartions. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Raya; in fact, I had more fun than I had expected. But before this experience, I actually thought of Raya as a time where people basically celebrate over being able to eat during daylight hours again. In truth, Hari Raya means more than just that. It's a time where people celebrate many things: self-restraint during Ramadan, the bond between family and friends, kindness toward others. For my host family, Hari Raya was a time to meet up with family members and friends and celebrate the month of Ramadan.
Coming out of Ramadan and the celebration time, I feel more culturally aware of Islam here in Malaysia and southeast Asia. I can relate to Muslims during Ramadan as I also participated in the fasting. I can understand the Raya's significance now that I've played a part in the festivities. And despite the fact that I am not a Muslim, I appreciate Hari Raya more now that I have actively participated in it.
I'm so grateful that I was able to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I truly have gained a wealth of cultural knowledge from this amazing experience. Terima kasih to everyone who helped me have this great experience!
The Entrance Sign to the Mosque
The speaker at the mosque
The coverings set up for Hari Raya prayers
The thing that Muslims use to wash their hands before and after eating
Me with my Raya host brother
Biskut Raya-traditional Raya snacks
Me receiving duit Raya from a relative of the host family
A package of duit Raya
Me with Max, the AFSer from Germany
Me with my Raya host brother