1 Jul 2016

Hari Raya Is Coming: How Can You Be the Perfect Guest?

After almost a month of basking in the reflected glory of Ramadhan bazaars (read: everyone’s favourites of ayam percik, bubur lambuk and the ubiquitous roti John), it’s that time of the year again when we celebrate the long awaited five consecutive holidays Hari Raya Aidilfitri – concluding the significant end of traffic congestion Ramadan fasting month.

As the big day draws closer and our sky once again brims with an assorted array of illegal sparklers and firecrackers, you’ve probably also received a hefty stack of Raya invitations piled up (ahem, provided you’ve been embracing the essence of diversity in you).

Now before you barge in to the nearest shopping mall in search of the perfect Raya ensemble, here are seven gentle reminders to walk you through the do’s and don’ts during your Raya visits. Fingers crossed these clues will reduce the prospect of social gaffes or awkward moments during your freeloading-days Hari Raya.

#1. Your attire (does) speak volumes

Article Visuals - Hari Raya Guest-Attire

Image credit: lokalah.wordpress.com

When cracking your cranium over “the-raya-look”, kiss your mandatory “dress to impress” motto goodbye. Yes, dressing modestly (a.k.a the attitude of propriety and decency) is the watchword; avoid detracting from your natural beauty with heavily caked-on make-up.

Above all, please steer clear of shorts, ripped jeans, sleeveless tops or skimpy getups (read: VERY-tight-figure-hugging-ensemble) as anything that is skin-baring and revealing for both males and females is not only a taboo but also a gesture of disrespect.  

Tip: Here are five gentle reminders on what NOT to wear for Raya visiting because chances are, your Malay hosts will probably seal their lips even though your attire ticks them off.

#2. End to awkward handshakes

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Crash course 101: The Muslim handshake is known as salam, or touching of palms. The gist behind it is that both hands are extended to sandwich the recipient’s right hand. The hands are then retracted – bringing the right hand or both – over the chest/heart for a couple of seconds. Such gesture insinuates the demure gesture of greeting the person from the bottom of your heart as well as signifying a receipt of thanks and acceptance.

Before you go on gifting handshakes to everyone, bear in mind that men and women who aren’t intimately related are not allowed to exhibit any form of physical contact, in accordance with Islamic practice. Hence ladies, do not take it personally if your male hosts only reciprocate your friendly intention of handshaking with a slight nod and hand over their heart.

The same goes for our chaps – if your lady host doesn’t respond, kindly draw back your hands and proceed with a smile, nod of acknowledgement or polite conversation. That will suffice!

Tip: Malay handshakes are typically light and loose without a grasp, involving only slight touching of the hands (yes, even between men). Please ditch the Westerner’s business-like handshakes that are (almost) always firm and strong.

#3. Raya calories. Wait…what calories?

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Image credit: gratisography

Rendang? Longtong? Kek lapis? Bring them on! Chances are, ketupat, serunding or savoury nibbles WILL be in abundance. If calorie is a term that does not exist in your dictionary, hold your horses! Refrain from knuckling down and over-stuffing your face because (1) you’re not in a buffet eatery (2) you’re not an elephant (3) you’re not an elephant.

If you find the need (read: self-imposed pressure) to endlessly gobble down noms as a sign not to offend your host, you can scrap that assumption off your mental wall. In fact, to chow down even just a slice of cake or a piece of cookie is sufficient in fulfilling your host’s sense of duty to look after (read: feed) a guest – yes, a digress from your feasting pattern during Chinese New Year.

Tip: Aside from the scrumptious delicacies, Raya open house is also famed for its rainbow selection of soft drinks and cordials. Nonetheless, if you’re keeping an eye on your sugar intake, it’s not impolite to beg request for a glass of sky juice instead.

#4. Social practice of gifting

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Image credit: bmag.com.au

Then there’s the dubious aura revolving around the tradition of buah tangan. Should you lug around a basket of dry fruits and nuts or pack mountains of Kuih bahulu and Dodol as souvenirs for every Ali, Ahmad and Akim’s Raya open house?

Wakey wakey! Turns out that bearing gifts are actually unnecessary during Hari Raya as the guest’s presence in the home is already very much appreciated. In other words, it is okay for you to show up empty handed because #youarethegift.

#5. Crispy bank notes in Raya angpows

Image credit: cziplee.com

Image credit: cziplee.com

Let’s be frank – aside from the mandatory feast, a lot of us also not-so-secretly look forward to gathering a bundle of green packets/envelopes. Termed as duit raya which stands for Eid money, the notion behind these green angpows has its basis on the Islamic concept of zakat, where every Muslim is required to provide at least 2.5% to the needy.

Generally, the sum and amount depends on the affordability of the host; a stranger might obtain less as compared to a close family member. If your host has kids (provided that you’re married), you may also offer duit raya to them as friendly gesture. However, keep in mind that giving duit raya from one guest to another guests’ kids is not necessary at all.

Tips: Receive your green packets with the right hand or both hands. Do not (we repeat: do not) accept them with your left hand.

#6. Overstaying your welcome

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Image credit: starworksartists.com

Yes, it is wonderful to have your breakfast, lunch, teatime, dinner and supper all in one shot during Raya but that does not warrant you a green card to take the all-day-guest route. Sure – out of courtesy – your host is very likely to persuade you to make yourself comfortable at home, but please don’t take it literally and make yourself way too comfy.

But what if my host insists that I roam around longer?”

Well… (1) A Malay home is always bound to reap many guests throughout the day; hence, it is best not to loiter or overstay your welcome. (2) It is deemed rude and discourteous in Malay society to make their guest feel unwelcome, so if more guests are swinging by, do excuse yourself graciously. (3) Be aware of the fact that there are other guests to be entertained (read: you’re not the only soul who’s in for Raya goodies).

Tips: Although open houses generally receive guests with arms wide open throughout the day, it’s best to avoid popping in during prayer times – give your host the space to observe the five daily prayers. Stay away from dropping over at wee hours, 1PM and late at night.

#7. Etiquette-alert!

Article Visuals - Hari Raya Guest-Etiquette

Image credit: stockunlimited

Upon arrival, be sure to greet the hosts as well as the elderly, and stay on your feet until you receive an official invitation (read: jemput masuk) to enter their home. When addressing older folks, go by pak cik (uncle) and mak cik (aunty). The minor-leagues may also address you in this manner. But before you raise your eyebrows and dash your way to the washroom for a one-hour-crying-session, know that it is a compliment and a sign of respect #janganperasansangat.

As you make yourself comfortable in your seat, first set your sights on munchies that are nearest to you before expanding your radar. Also, bear in mind to use only your right hand to eat, pass things or for any physical contact with another being (hint: the left hand is considered unhygienic as it’s used mainly for bodily functions).

Tips: Remember to bow down slightly when passing by other guests, particularly the elderly!

Now that we have prepped you with all the quintessential protocols, you can go all out rocking your ever-dapper-and-stylish traditional rigs with Raya jingles on full blast! In the spirit of Eid al-Fitr, all of us at EduAdvisor would like to sincerely wish all celebrants SELAMAT MENYAMBUT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI, MAAF ZAHIR DAN BATIN!

May this season of forgiveness ushers in abundance of warmth and merriment as you indulge in meaningful moments with your loved ones.

If you are being left out of the Raya bash because you have no Malay friends (boo!) your peeps are in the festive mood at their respective kampungs, fret not! What about milking every drop out of the long weekend with a getaway? Here are 5 Tips on Travelling on a Student Budget

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