Five things I’m looking forward to experiencing again this Hari Raya
At last, a more ‘normal’ celebration.
From seeing neighbourhoods lit up with festive decorations, to smelling the aroma of freshly baked kuehs and hearing the iconic Raya tunes from the 90s on the radio, Hari Raya is a time of the year filled with lots of joy and merriment for Muslims like myself.
While COVID-19 restrictions may have dampened the celebrations in the last two years, this year’s Hari Raya holds a different kind of excitement to it being the first ‘normal’ Hari Raya in three years.
With the easing of more restrictions from Apr 26 such as the removal of group size limits and increased venue capacities, there is plenty to look forward to this Hari Raya.
Here are five things I have missed from the past two Hari Raya celebrations and are looking forward to experiencing again this year.
1. Performing Hari Raya prayers in the mosque
During the peak of COVID-19, strict capacity limits and booking systems were implemented at mosques for Hari Raya prayers in order to curb the spread of the disease. As I was unable to secure a booking in time for both years, I had to resort to praying at home instead.
While praying at home may have been convenient, the Hari Raya experience did not feel complete.
Being around so many people and praying together is something I miss dearly. There is also an indescribable feeling of joy whenever I set foot into the mosque as everyone would be in high spirits, ready to kick off the celebrations.
As capacity limits for mosques have now been lifted, more worshippers are finally allowed to enter mosques for the Hari Raya prayers.
With my prayer slot already booked for May 3, I am excited to once again perform my Hari Raya morning prayers at a mosque with thousands of other Muslims.
2. Visiting in larger groups
My family and I have a Hari Raya tradition where we would all gather at my grandparent’s right after our Hari Raya prayers. I always looked forward to it as I got to meet my relatives and enjoy good food.
However, in the past two years, coming together was no longer possible as we had to abide by the COVID-19 restrictions on group sizes.
This year, as group size limits are finally lifted, I can finally see my aunties, uncles and cousins all under the same roof.
On top of that, I also look forward to visiting with my large group of friends. Travelling around neighbourhoods and visiting each other’s homes in a huge group was something I did very often prior to COVID-19.
It was one of the key highlights of Hari Raya, especially during my secondary school days.
3. Visiting more homes
One of the most enjoyable parts of Hari Raya is getting to visit all my relatives. I fondly recall the times in the past where my family and I would try to visit as many houses as we could in a single day.
However, we could no longer do so when the cap of unique visitors per household was introduced amid the pandemic.
I can still remember a certain year where my family and I covered as much as 11 houses in a single day. While I dreaded the experience back then, I will no longer take such arrangements for granted.
As unique household visitor limits have been removed this year, I hope to finally visit relatives that I have not met in the past two years. And who knows, maybe even break my family’s record of visiting 11 houses in a day.
4. Visiting relatives across the border
Like many other Singaporean families, I too have many relatives who reside in Malaysia. For my family, we would typically dedicate an entire weekend during Hari Raya to balik kampung (return to our family’s village).
One of my best Hari Raya memories actually happened in Malaysia many years ago, when I visited one of my granduncles. As he lived in a remote village surrounded by greenery, it was an eye opening experience for me as it was the first time I set foot into an actual kampung. Needless to say, seeing the cows and chickens roaming free was a fascinating sight too.
Apart from just visiting our distant relatives, I also got to experience the unique cultures in Malaysia as well as enjoy their special kuehs.
However, since the closure of borders between Singapore and Malaysia two years ago, our practice had to come to a temporary halt.
With the borders now reopened after two years, I cannot wait to reunite with my distant relatives and soak in the atmosphere once more.
5. Experiencing the sights and sounds of Hari Raya
To say that the Hari Raya celebrations in the past two years were lacklustre is truly an understatement.
Over the past two years, the celebrations had to be significantly scaled down. This year, however, the Hari Raya festive spirit seems to be returning at full force.
In light of the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions, Ramadan bazaars were also reintroduced. The bazaars have always played a big part in getting people into the mood for Hari Raya with its festive food, decorative lights and Raya music.
As I travel around Singapore to visit my relatives, I look forward to seeing families donning their matching baju kurungs out on the streets and hearing the festive Raya songs on the car radio.
While we enjoy our long-awaited celebrations, let’s not forget to practice social responsibility and continue to abide by the prevailing safe management measures.