The biggest of all religious and cultural festivals in Malaysia this year will be sorely missed, not just by the Malays and Muslims, but the rest of the multicultural nation as well.
What is usually an affair as extravagant as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Eid-al-Fitr in Arabic) saw many gathering to celebrate the end of the month-long period of fasting from dawn to dusk known as Ramadahan.
Like with most Malaysian festivals, it is common to see street markets selling cultural wares and foodstuffs to massive crowds of families spending time together outside, while shopping malls and hotels are decked out with special thematic decorations of the year. People will be taking annual leaves to visit relatives in addition to the allocated public holidays, and interstate travel will be at its biggest peak as most leave the city to their hometowns in other states and rural areas.
Naturally, the strict social distancing precautions in efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, while necessary of the highest quality, puts a dampener on such a widely celebrated occasion in the South East Asian region homing a Muslim population of over 240 million.
In the past few days, the Ministry of Defense has had to re-impose the interstate travel ban, stopping over 3,000 cars from potentially becoming contributors to the 14% of cases of total Covid-19 cases in Malaysia. Travellers without proper permit for emergency cases (medical or death) are turned back and/or issued with an RM1,000 compound fine on the spot.
The beloved ‘balik kampung’ travel initiating the season of holidaying and celebrating is lawfully dissuaded, with official statements imploring a more reserved thanksgiving to be held instead.
Many have expressed feeling a sense of loss as they practice restraint beyond the month of abstinence, where withholding must now progress and evolve from a religious basis into medical concerns.
But where there is a cutback on celebrations, the season for gratitude is even more treasured as a realisation that some of us have been living a life blessed beyond measure sets in.
Outpouring of support and charity has been demonstrated by many towards the less fortunate, the frontliners, and others aiming to make Raya better with small home businesses such as dessert and hot food bundles. Prayers are performed with more earnest as wishes for better times ahead are called for, showcasing the true spirit of the season.
While the normal Raya festivities are switched out for more conservative celebrations to keep our younger and senior relatives in good health, happiness with our community and family can still be achieved.
In understanding official guidelines, a gathering of not more than 20 people are allowed, provided that the house hosting can cater to a 1 – 2 meter spacing between individuals. Too small a house, and the host risks a visit from officials to break up the party.
Mask On At All Times
In addition to donning the Baju Melayu, Baju Kurung, and other traditional wear for the occasion, all attending an open house must keep their protective face masks on.
Understandably, this may pose a problem when attempting to eat together. This is where social distancing comes into play, and must be enacted where possible.
Changing How To Salam
Shaking hands, touching cheeks, and gesturing to the heart is all part of a beloved Malay greeting. But as missed as affectionate this greeting is, some innovation is now needed to express just as much without touching.
Being there for family is a gesture highly appreciated, but when physical travel is barred, turn to technology instead! No beloved is too far for a phone call away, and even a short video call can make all the difference.
For the little ones, their ‘duit raya’ can be sent via e-wallets, so there’s no skimping out on family this season! But with all due respect, Malaysia is projected to have an economic downturn following the mass and sudden halt to many sectors. Giving out of pride to save face must be put aside, and giving (where available) as a gesture of hope and thankfulness must be prioritised.
We at ExpatGO would like to wish all Muslim readers and friends a safe and happy Hari Raya Adilfitri and resilience for what is hopefully the close relaxing of the MCO for Malaysia.
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