Hari Raya is a huge holiday here where the month long, sun up to sun down fasting session is broken. Of course, if I were to fast for a whole month, I would require one heck of a huge celebration, including piles upon piles of my favorite foods, too. Our neighbors invited us to travel around with them and celebrate for the first day of Raya. So we got all dressed up in our blue baju's and hit the road!
I was warned that because we would be visiting numerous homes throughout the day - and that we would pretty much be expected to eat at each one of them - getting a full belly at the first house probably was not the wisest idea ever. "The trick is to get a little bit of everything, that way your plate LOOKS full, but in reality it's not. And you have plenty of room for the next place". Easy enough, I thought. But I thought wrong. Not so easy when there is a little man wearing a pink shirt who insists on dipping your plate for you...
The bowl was SO full by the time I got it back from him. First lesson of the day: The just-make-your-plate-look-full theory is not always fool proof. ;)
Maybe it's just me being an American, but multiple times throughout the day when we were going from house to house, I found myself thinking how similar the celebrations were between Hari Raya and several different major American holidays.
We'll start at the beginning of the calendar year: Its common for people here to say "Maaf Zahir dan Batin" to each other, basically meaning "Forgive me of the wrong I've done to you, whether physically or emotionally". Which in comparison, we do that around New Years in the States. Sometimes we get caught up in the whole "I'm going to make things right starting this year" attitude and try to seek forgiveness from each other in order to mend a broken friendship, etc. etc.
Memories of Easter came to mind for two different reasons. Mainly because of how families color coordinate their new outfits and get all dressed up for the first day of the special occasion. But secondly, just because of what we came to call the "Raya Bunny" in the mall...
Fireworks. Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks all month long. Grant it, nothing real spectacular and colorful like we typically are used to seeing on July 4th, but just as loud. That's fo sho. More than once I have been
terrified slightly startled by a BANG. It's about like somebody unexpectedly pulling the trigger to a sawed off double barrel twelve gauge two feet away from you.
Now, the one and only reason why I am reminded of Halloween is simply because of kids going door to door asking for duit raya. Duit raya is usually a small amount of money given in an envelope to kids up to older teenagers who have not-yet married. The more houses that are visited, the fuller the pockets (and yes, this included me...cha-ching!;). Anywho, the particular group of neighborhood kids ringing our door bell in hopes of a little duit raya was way similar to the pesky little trick-or-treaters in America. You know the ones I'm talking about, they ring to doorbell and beat on the door consistently until you finally open up...it's like they know that you are just sitting in your darkened living room with a huge candy stash or something.
Every Thanksgiving I always eat more food in one day than I typically do in a good 3 days or so. Everybody pretty much does though, right? I mean, how could anybody not go back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths)? In Southeast Asia, Hari Raya is the time where faces and stomachs are stuffed and leftovers are eaten on for several days. But their traditional holiday meal doesn't include turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, or pumpkin pie. Just more rice, spice, and honestly I don't know what all else. I decided early on it would probably be best if I didn't ask too many questions about the food. ;)
But I will say that for the most part, it was all pretty scrumptious. Especially the sweet goodness of chocolate blueberry kek lapis!
And then there is Christmas. I don't know how most other people spend the week of Christmas, but ours was always jammed packed with going, going, going. Going to Grandma's, going to Nana's, going to Grandmama's, going to Aunt's and Uncle's, and visiting siblings. Weel, Southeast Asians seem to have the going, going, going thing down pat here, too. Just going back to their home towns to celebrate with all of their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents they more than likely don't get to see but a few times a year. Oh, and having to pose for a billion pictures, too. It's obvious this little boy in the middle is about pictured out...
Hooray for Hari Raya!