My most memorable Raya experience was something that actually happened a few years ago; when I was but a poor student living alone in Kota Damansara.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, somewhere around 4 or 5am. After tossing and turning for a bit, I gave up and got out of bed, feeling an intense craving for some nice hot roti telur. So after a quick shower and change, I hopped into my rickety old Kancil and drove over to the nearest 24 hour mamak store, only to find that it was closed.
‘Strange,’ I thought to myself. ‘Guess I’ll have to go somewhere else instead.’
Yet no matter which mamak store I visited, they all seemed to be closed. It was confusing, it was upsetting, it was making me hungry.
Then, just as I was about to give up and go home, I saw a sign. Literally. It was a sign stuck over one of the mamak place’s doorways saying that they were closed for Hari Raya.
And that, my friends, is the story of why I feel a craving for roti telur whenever someone mentions Hari Raya.
But putting my own traumatic experiences aside, this time of year has always been important to Malaysians. For most of us, this is the season of balik kampung; of getting in touch with our roots, of catching up with old friends and family members and celebrating together.
But then, everything changed when the COVID-19 attacked.
This Year’s Hari Raya is Going to Be Different
Even if you’ve spent the last few months hiding under a rock, it should be pretty obvious that this year’s Hari Raya celebrations aren’t going to be the same as usual. While the government has been relaxing some of the stricter travel restrictions, the pandemic is far from over.
Needless to say, not everyone is happy about having to stay home during Raya. But when the alternative could mean spreading COVID-19 to all your loved ones, I think we can all agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
However, just because you can’t balik kampung doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy an amazing Hari Raya. To help you out, here are a few useful dos and don’ts that you should keep in mind during this year’s celebrations.
1) Stay in Touch
Thanks to technology, it’s become easier than ever before to spend some quality time with your loved ones – even if they’re halfway across the country! Whether you prefer to use a simple phone call, a Whatsapp video message, or even a Zoom group meeting, there are plenty of options available at your fingertips.
Don’t forget to check up on your elderly parents and relatives too! Even if they aren’t comfortable with all this high-tech stuff, you can still give them a call to keep in touch and let them know how you’re doing.
2) Stay Stylish
Even if it is the holiday season, you still need to maintain your health and safety. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and most importantly, wear your mask properly whenever you leave the house!
Fortunately, there’s no need to sacrifice style for safety. In this time of troubles, Malaysian fashion brands such as Behati have taken the opportunity to develop some beautiful face masks that’ll let you stay both safe and stylish.
3) Stay Generous
During normal Hari Raya celebrations, our older relatives will give us our ‘duit raya’ in cute little green packets. This year, we’re making our duit raya digital.
Thanks to e-wallet apps like GrabPay and Touch n’ Go, we can now send the traditional duit raya electronically. It’s both more convenient and more environmentally friendly compared to the traditional green packets.
1) Go Balik Kampung
I know, it’s hard. It really sucks that we can’t go back to enjoy the festival with our friends and family, but interstate travel is still heavily restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been urging people to remain home for their own safety during this year’s Raya season.
“Let me remind everyone that the authorities will take action against individuals and businesses if they fail to follow standard operating procedure. It is important that everyone does their part in the war against Covid-19, ” he said.
2) Go to Open Houses
This year, it might be better to skip going to open houses. While you’re allowed to have up to 20 visitors at a time during Hari Raya, the problem is that you have to ensure that everyone is practicing social distancing – which may be basically impossible if you live in a smaller house or apartment.
Can you imagine trying to fit 20 people in your house while keeping them all 2 meters apart? And you can’t even skimp on the social distancing measures either because having even one asymptomatic guest could accidentally infect everyone in the house. What a nightmare!
3) Go Lepak After Prayers
While mosques and suraus within green zones will be allowed to open for congregational and Friday prayers, Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad has made it clear that there are certain conditions that must be met.
For one thing, only 30 people can be inside the building at once, with police and state religious officials monitoring the area to ensure that everyone is practicing social distancing. “Those who have chronic illnesses, senior citizens above the age of 70 and children below the age of 15 are not allowed to gather at mosques,” Zulkifli added.
2020 is Shaping Up to be a Remarkable Year
For better or worse, the effects of this year’s events are likely to remain for many years to come. While the pandemic is frightening, it can be beaten if we are willing to work together for the greater good. As such, it is our responsibility as citizens of Malaysia to stay safe, stay calm, and stay together (metaphorically, not physically).
While this Raya may not be as wonderful as we were hoping, it is important to cooperate with the authorities and do our part to help combat COVID-19. Together, we can ensure that next year’s celebrations can be bigger and brighter than any of the years before.