Celebrating the New Raya in the best way possible during this pandemic

Shaira Idris
Written by Shaira Idris

KUALA LUMPUR — May 22, 2020: Hari Raya Aidilfitri will surely be a low-key and subdued affair in this current Covid-19 pandemic due to restrictions under the Movement Control Order (MCO) that are still in place. 

For many people living in Kuala Lumpur who have families in other states, it certainly makes for a sad celebration as they cannot “balik kampung” under the MCO. There are also other restrictions with regard to large gatherings as well as visits to the cemetery as are customary during Hari Raya.  

After all, Raya is a celebration of triumph and joy after a month of fasting. A time for get-together with family and friends, special festive meals, prayers at the mosque, visits to the cemetery, new clothes, “duit raya” for the chiildren and in Malaysia — open houses.

But no more this time around. Surprisingly, though, many Malaysian Muslims are resigned to having a sedate celebration without most of their loved ones as they are still able to be connected through the marvel of technology.  

Nevertheless, they say, the heart aches just thinking about celebrating this Raya minus the mirth and merriment of celebrating physically with their loved ones.

Like enjoying pre-Raya rituals of preparing the festive dishes, cookies and cakes, decorating the family home, the visit by the Imam and group from the neighbourhood  mosque for the “takbir”. 

Despite an absence of all the excitement that makes for a joyful Raya, the people The Mole spoke to had this resolve — “We will make it as festive as we possibly can and we will make the best of this current situation.”

 But how will their Raya celebration be this time? Understandably toned-down but how much so. Will all these be cut down — festive “makan-makan’, Raya cakes and cookies, Ketupat, lemang, rendang and all other must-have dishes? Baju raya? Duit raya?

Raja Amilia Azman, from Kuala Kangsar, now a resident of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, said Raya this time will be a family affair at home.

“No baju raya. Just the thought of going out to buy baju raya and trying out at the stores is out of the question. We will wear the best that we have.”

Raja Amilia would usually make her way to Kuala Kangsar with her three grown-up children either late on the first day of  Syawal or on the second day. But it looks like they will not be going anywhere that far this time.

Thankfully, she she has seven family members scattered around the Klang Valley and they will each prepare a single dish to be distributed to each of the seven households. 

“On Raya day, we will fix a time to have a virtual gathering. Make the best of what is possible and stay safe. I feel sad, but safety comes first.”

 Yati Senu Parkes who had just moved into her new apartment in Glo Damansara said this Raya is going to “pass us by without much fanfare.”

“I’m not having any new Raya clothes. We probably have some normal Raya food but it depends on how quickly we can organise our new home. As for shopping – none under this MCO.

“Whatever it is, I’m going to make it as festive as possible,” she enthused.

Yati has gained a sense of appreciation through the MCO and said it has given her an opportunity to better herself  spiritually. 

“To have time to reflect on what is good and bad for my family and me. The saddest part for me is not being able to gather with my siblings. We are at an age where we have to take extra care. My children are very particular  —  they don’t want our relatives over 50 to be infected.”

This mother of four is hopeful for things to be better.

“To me, what Allah wanted is to appreciate what he gave. Humans had abused and destroyed everything. By taking our freedom, God allows us to see where we went wrong. Hopefully, we take a lesson from this to better our world for the future.”

Nina Samad who comes from a large family and whose parents have passed on said being with her siblings is something she looks forward to during Ramadan and Syawal. 

She and her siblings would share the cost of preparation of their Raya spread that they all enjoy together on the first of Syawal at her Section 16 residence in Petaling Jaya.

Nina said this time, personal expenditure for baju raya and preparing for the house would be minimal as she will not be having guests over as in previous celebrations when the first few days would see relatives and friends visiting through the day and night.

“The celebration mood is not the same though but my husband and I try our best for the children to have the festive mood.

“The children have always looked forward to Ramadan because we will have our extended family — my siblings and their families — over every Saturday of Ramadan for buka, on Raya eve and the first of Raya for Syawal celebration.

But, Nina is relieved that her children understand about the pandemic.

Despite the less than joyous atmosphere, Nina said she will prepare the dishes for the first day of Raya, ensure the house is in order and select the recycles baju raya for the first of Syawal and will  perform the sembahyang sunat with the whole family on the first of Syawal.

Sadly, she reflected, she and her siblings will not be able to visit the graves of their parents and their two sisters.

Putri Juneita Johari conceded that her family’s Raya routine this year will be slightly different.

“No solat hari raya berjemaah at masjid, no visits to the graves. No visiting family and close relatives on the first day. So no open houses at all for the entire raya.”

As for baju raya, she said that she had not bought any for years.

“Reuse. Recycle. Thankfully, the old ones can still fit.”

Putri Juneita who lives in Ampang, said kuih Raya had always been at minimum for her family and this time, duit Raya will be for a selected few.

“No more massive Ang Pow stuffings for every little kid. Direct donations to orphans and old folks now,” she remarked, adding that family gatherings will be a “zoom” affair.

Asked how she feels about this, she said she is sad about not being able to meet up with her family for their traditional Hari Raya breakfast and meals but she is grateful that they get to see another Hari Raya despite the pandemic.

A plus side, she said is that she is relieved of the burden of open houses.

“Now, I feel that Hari Raya can be celebrated the way it should be … in moderation and with loved ones. Not a month of celebration and feasting. The pandemic has slowed it down and that’s for the better. Let the earth and resources rest. “

Datin Noor Aizam Jeffrey who lives in Bukit Damansara said her family will try to retain as much of their Raya rituals as possible by having their Raya breakfast together.

She is grateful and relieved that her three married sons and a married daughter are all in Kuala Lumpur which allows for some normalcy in their celebration.

One thing that she will not be doing this time  — wearing a new set of baju Raya. 

“I’ll wear whatever I have… and to think that I’ve always been gung-ho about having new baju for Raya.”

For Fatimah Abu Bakar, this Raya will definitely be different, especially on the first of Syawal.

“Normally,  the first day wiill be with immediate family and kids’ close friends but this time just the family,” she said, adding that she will miss the rituals of performing prayers at the mosque, visit to the cemetery, celebrating with her husband’s older sisters and visits by her only siblings – her two younger brothers.

Fatimah, from Penang, but now a long-time resident of Petaling Jaya, is thankful that her mother is now living in the Klang Valley. Although she was not able to be with her mother through the MCO, her two daughters who live near their grandmother were able to check on her time and again.

On the forthcoming Eid, she said she feels sad because it’s hard to adjust not being able to do what we’ve been looking forward to doing every year. 

“Just miss being able to go out with the family, especially the grandkids. to have ice cream and eat out after Ramadan. To go without fear.”

And her parting shot: “What I’m afraid of is I just may get used to being cooped up.”

For Faikha Abdul Kadir, from Pekan, Pahang — Raya celebration this time will be subdued — from Raya clothes to having Raya meals.

She sees no necessity in buying new clothes at stores or online because she won’t be going on Raya visits, further lamenting that she cannot “balik kampung”.

“Going through the online offers in the internet and Facebook, is really quite interesting, so many attractive offers from baju to tudungs, accessories and so forth. You name it. But what’s the point? So I decided to make do with whatever that I have in my wardrobe for Raya Covid-19 for the record – Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah”.

Faikha said this Raya would have been her turn to balik kampung to spend Raya with the Pekan clan.

“I’ll miss the beautiful moments spending Raya time with the family. It is such a big family reunion to meet up with everyone. For a few days, it is always big feats for us with almost 100 heads to feed.”

Faikha said the real disappointment is with the younger generation of the clan as they look forward to Raya gatherings during meals, playing fireworks, the takbir and the prayers before heading to the Istana to pay respects to the Sultan.

“And for the first time to the new Sultan who is also the Yang di Pertuan Agong. So much they will miss this Raya,” she said wistfully.

The Mole also caught up with Chong Yoke Mei from Petaling Jaya, to ask if  Raya under the MCO would make any difference to her spending the holiday like other non-Muslims.

Yoke Mei said while she would normally stay home during this festive season unless there was a planned overseas trip, one thing she would be missing is the uniquely enjoyable Raya “makan-makan”.

“Although Raya will be so drastically different this time, for me, there is no difference except for one thing — I cannot celebrate “makan-makan” with friends and office colleagues. Also we cannot celebrate Raya makan get-together at the office because of social distancing,” she remarked.



About the author

Shaira Idris

Shaira Idris

Shaira is a 20-something accidental journalist who's currently still adapting to the world of journalism and learning the ropes of her job.