5 Sep 2010

Reflections on Hari Raya

Idil Fitri - the festival at the end of Ramadan is almost here. Another 5 days! We're home in Malacca preparing the house for the festivities. My garden needs clearing and weeding. I wish I have the time to clear up the bushes near the fence but the rain isn't really helping. Yatie, my Indonesian maid is busy cleaning the inside of the house - changing curtains, washing windows, polishing furniture and so on. By Wednesday we'll be preparing the food. My sons are both coming home and so is Shasha my daughter. All the cats are down in Malacca too. At one time we used to board Karupin and Momo as well as Blackie but Karupin especially got so stressed out because of  it, we decided not to board them anymore. But it's a bit difficult - we had to take all five of them in the Livina - each in the individual cages! Travelling with cats is such a pain sometimes but luckily this time around only Blackie whined the whole way. After a while Karupin and Momo quieted down and slept . Ginger and Chichi were used to travelling so they were okay. But once in Malacca, the moment they heard us opening the car doors there was a commotion in the various cages. Everyone wanted to be let out! Apin and Momo had to be caged again - they cannot get along with Ginger our orange tabby so off to the big cage with them until they all settle down.

The strays outside were waiting for us - I'm sure they hang around waiting for us to come home because we're the only people here who feed them. After quickly filling their bowls with cat food, I got Chi chi and Ginger upstairs, away from the other cats! Ginger is still very much afraid of both the black monsters and decided to stay inside the room the whole day. Poor Ginger.

Momo meanwhile has appropriated the staircase - he loves to sit at the top of the stairs and look down through the slats at the various goings-on in the living room. This means that even if Ginger is brave enough to go downstairs, she can't, because Momo is guarding the stairs. Meanwhile Blackie has discovered the strays outside the kitchen and is growling at them. "This is my house," she seems to say. "Get away!"

Very interesting, I thought. Blackie seems to have forgotten that she herself was a stray at one time.

Hari Raya or Idil Fitri, the festival of charity, is a big deal here in Malaysia. Like Christmas, its an important religious festival, marking the end of a month of fasting and spirituality. Most people celebrate by wearing new clothes, giving charity to orphans, visiting friends and relatives. It's a month of goodwill and charity. Many people hold "open houses", a concept that is unique to Malaysia. An open house is a day when we open our house to friends and relatives. Those who can afford it normally get a catering team to manage the food, while some cook the food themselves. Tents are put up in the lawn, chairs brought out for the occasion and there is always plenty of food. This is the day when all your relatives - from near and far will come and visit. Some you may have not seen for months or even years. Come Idil Fitri, everyone comes forward to offer their "salam" or peace and past misdemeanors forgiven. Children will get tokens - normally in the form of money in packets called 'angpow" - a term borrowed from the Chinese. The money or "duit raya" is collected and spent on toys and other things, depending on the child. At these open houses you can see Malaysians of all races, sharing food and congeniality, talking of 'the old days', joking and generally having a good time. I often think that this is what has cemented our relationships with the other races here in Malaysia - our ability to enjoy each other's festivals in a spirit of goodwill.

The family (minus 1) at last year's Raya gathering
I look out the window and try to remember past festivals, especially those celebrated with my parents and I myself was much younger. I remember collecting the "duit raya" gleefully from uncles and older cousins who were working. These would be secreted away in money boxes, marked with a big X - do not disturb. At the end of the day my sisters and I would sit in our parents' room and count the money carefully. One one occasion I managed to collect about RM150 which in those days (the 60s) was a lot of money to a child. Excited, full of plans, my sister and I would put our heads together and decide what we would do with out money. Most of the time however our parents would insist that we save some of it in our post office savings book. The rest could be spent on favourites - icecream at Tan Chong Ice parlour, a film, some books by Enid Blyton that I had wanted very much to read. All in all it would have been a very satisfying time of spending.

MY own children went through the same traditions. But for them I normally make them earn their money from us by promising them RM1 for each day that they could fast the whole day! So if they could fast for the whole month they would get RM30.00 each. Even the youngest Sarah, would fast by the time she was in Year One of primary school, that is 7 years of age. They start by fasting half a day, in which case she still would get Rm1 because of her youth. Those older ones would have to fast the whole day. By the time they are 9 years of age they were all able to fast the whole month. Good training for them. I remember telling them the reasons for fasting- they need to understand that many other people from very poor countries starve for lack of food and by fasting we learn physically and spiritually of the conditions that deprived people live in and perhaps feel some compassion.


The Chair Speaks said...

Your kitties' story is entertaining and is so typical of cats. LOL!
Love that family photo! Beautiful!

Selamat Berpuasa!
Selamat Hari Raya!

naida said...

Awwww...the cats are too cute!
And lovely family photo!

I'm amazed that by age 9 they were able to fast the whole month.


Kat said...

Thanks EJ and Naida for your comments. Yes, we have to start them young on the fasting. Otherwise they won't do it. Too many distractions these days.