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Then & Now: How Raya Traditions Grow With Us

Then & Now: How Raya Traditions Grow With Us

The customs, traditions and culture we share shift and change, especially with the conveniences that we have today.

Akmal Hakim

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From small family rituals to time-honoured community customs, the traditions we practice and pass down from generation to generation reflect our cultural identity, reinforce our values and bolster the bond we have with the people around us.

But just like the foods we eat and the clothes we wear, given enough time and influence, the customs, traditions and culture we share shift and change—especially with the conveniences that we have today.

It’s sometimes crazy to imagine that, just a few decades ago, you’d need to write someone a customary “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri” postcard as a tradition to welcome the festivities.

But nowadays, wishing your loved ones a “Maaf Zahir Batin” is as quick and easy as jumping into a video call where we can communicate as clearly on mobile devices as meeting in person.

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So as Aidilfitri draws near let’s check out some of the customs and traditions that have evolved over time and kept our Aidilfitri spirit alive;

People didn’t shop for Baju Raya, they made them themselves!

(Credit: Artem Beliaikin/ Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee via Unsplash)

Dressing up in brand new and colourful attire is a quintessential part of Hari Raya celebrations. After all, it wouldn’t be Raya without the bois’ and gals’ sharply dressed in their traditional Baju Melayu and classical Kebayas.

However, we’ve found out that it wasn’t so easy to get a hold of fancy new threads back in the olden days. For most people, the only way to dress in a new pair of Baju Raya for the holidays was to make it themselves, which is probably why so many back then were good at sewing!

Everyone had that one makcik, cousin, friend or neighbour that became their personal fashion designer responsible for taking measurements and sewing the assortment of garments a family would wear for Aidilfitri.

Slowly, this culture changed to include bargain hunting! Why DIY your dress when you can buy them at a discount right?!

Now people are more than happy to purchase the many, quality, designer-made outfits that are available everywhere.

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You only had homemade Hari Raya dishes!

(Credit: HumbaFrame/twenty20photos via Envato Elements)

No Hari Raya would be complete without the delicious traditional dishes and delectable kuih raya to indulge our appetites with.  

However, those who grew up with the kampung life would remember that the only way to taste tasty Hari Raya treats was to raid the open houses!

It’s customary for kids to plan their routes throughout the village and save the best home for last, and even help out during the gotong-royong to prepare the meals.

Today, you can get traditional Raya food even when it’s not Raya! — Besides plenty of other delicious delicacies to choose from which you can have delivered directly to your home.

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Hari Raya was for Balik Kampung ONLY!

(Credit: Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee/ Rey Angelo Cucio via Unsplash)

Traditionally, Hari Raya is that time of the year when people would go back to their hometowns to celebrate the occasion with their relatives and friends.

But recently going on Hari Raya holidays and vacationing at local and abroad tourist destinations have been #trending among Malaysians!

Hari Raya “staycations” also became a thing because of the Covid travel restrictions we’ve had.

Maybe it’s true what some say: it doesn’t matter where you spend the festivities, as long as you’re close to the people you love. After all, in today’s world loved ones are only one short call away!

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Celebrating Raya with a different kind of BANG!

(Credit: Garakta-Studio/Rawpixel via Envato Elements)

Watching TV on Hari Raya was always special. Tuning in to local shows and international films was a big part of what made Hari Raya feel festive.

Nowadays, there’s plenty of local content available on streaming services like Netflix and a range of other international content that Malaysians have lovingly made part of their custom to enjoy like “K-Dramas” and “C-Series” on services like iQiyi that add a bit more flavour to an already savoury Syawal.

Malaysians have also made it a ritual to game with family and friends together on Aidilfitri—throwing grenades around indoors on “PUBG Mobile” instead of fireworks outside!

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(Credit: twenty20photos via Envato Elements)

No matter how our traditions change over the generations, Hari Raya is still a momentous occasion where everybody gets together to celebrate our friendships, honour our families, forgive and forget, and be grateful for the blessings we’ve enjoyed.

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