My Raya started off really mediocre. I woke up to silence. Which, on a normal day is weird itself, but being Raya, it’s more than a little suspicious. You see, I have a huge family, with my parents, myself, my four brothers, my two aunts and my grandmother all living under one roof.
To say that things were quiet around the house is a gross understatement. On a normal day, we would often get noise complaints from neighbours who aren’t used to us yet. The ones who we grew up with are already familiar with our level of decibels so they pay us no mind, usually. Sometimes, they even join in!
My grandmother has 15 children. Most of them live in Malaysia, with a few scattered all around the world. So Raya used to be such a chaotic affair but as of two years ago, it’s been a little quiet. During the MCO periods, no one was allowed visitation rights since our house was already too full to begin with.
Most of our conversations with other family members were through a screen this year, which I’m sure is similar to most Malaysians out there, especially this MCO 3.0 period. But I’m sure we still went through all those necessary preparations the day before Raya to make sure that it at least feels like a celebration.
Selamat Hari Raya! … But From a Distance, Please.
To prepare for the Raya season, I got a little over excited and bought five pieces of baju kurung. Please don’t look at me like that, I couldn’t help it if the ads on Instagram are literally targeting me. I am but a weak individual with access to adult money and although I’m all for saving it for the future and all that, sometimes my resolve breaks and two days later, I’ll be sitting in my room surrounded by packages that I don’t remember purchasing.
Earlier this month, the government announced an MCO 3.0 to try to cut down the number of cases this Raya. This means that we aren’t allowed to cross over to other states. Either to visit our friends and families, or to simply go look for food.
I was disappointed and upset about the lockdown at first because selfishly, I was thinking about how I couldn’t wear my new baju raya and show off, dress up all nice and pretty, and visit my relatives all around KL and Selangor. Since those plans were shot down, I have to stay at home for the entirety of the holiday. What’s the point in dressing up when there’s no one to see it?
I came out of my self-centered mindset when I got to thinking that I was really lucky to have been in lockdown with my whole family, as compared to others who are living in other states and couldn’t get home to spend the festive season with their relatives.
Some Malaysians had better outlooks on the situation and were still grateful that they could at least celebrate Raya, even if it’s by themselves. The sheer positivity in a dark situation touched my heart and made me snap out of my entitled state.
How lucky am I to be with family here today, I thought.
So what if I’m a little frustrated at how the government is playing tic tac toe with the way they deal with the virus? I’m allowed at least that much. But I cannot say that I am deprived of my right to go out when others don’t even have the privilege of returning home. Some have not seen their families for years, and the pandemic has definitely not helped at all.
This is my first year just celebrating with only my immediate family and not my aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s a lot different in a sense that it’s so much quieter, much calmer without the screaming of my little nieces and nephews and popping of fireworks by my cousins. It only started getting a lot more fun when my neighbours decided to visit.
Mind you, I live in a primarily Chinese and Indian dominated neighbourhood and it’s so sweet that they came by to wish us a Hari Raya and sat down for a chat. I think they had caught on that we were a little down since none of our other family members were able to come by. My neighbours were the people that I grew up with, that substituted for my parents when they had to go to work. I was lucky to get to rekindle my relationship with them.
They talked about all the shenanigans I put them through and we all had a laugh about the memories. It’s not like I haven’t seen them the last few Raya, I just didn’t get the time to sit down and actually chat with them since I was too busy with my cousins.
This year, I truly learned that family isn’t just by blood. I know that the phrase gets thrown around a lot and I understood it from an outsider’s perspective, but to actually experience it was a lot more different.
Getting to communicate with members of my extended family through FaceTime and WhatsApp has helped a lot in easing the pain of not getting to see them though. We reassured ourselves that maybe next year, it would be different. Maybe next year, we’d get to celebrate together again as a family and for a moment, everything was okay.
Staying Home Isn’t That Bad, Is It?
Currently, the COVID-19 cases in Malaysia are in the high hundred thousands with over six thousand new cases as of late. Unfortunately, it seems to be increasing because Malaysians refuse to stay at home. They argued that they miss their friends and family and would do anything to see them, even if it means paying off a fine of RM5,000. I see where they’re coming from, but is it really a commendable act when you’re potentially putting other people’s lives at risk?
With all that’s going on in the world, celebrating Raya seems a little underwhelming to some and a tad bit upsetting to others if they were to do it alone. So when the latest MCO was announced, people had started scrambling to balik kampung before the borders closed.
Those who remain in their respective states have had cases whereby they disobeyed SOPs from the government and proceeded to celebrate Raya with friends and family that are miles away from them. Some even had open houses and invited more people to stop by and join them. Let it be said that we cannot be fully freed from this virus if there are still people who are disobeying the laws just so they can hang out for a few hours.
The year wasn’t all bad though. Usually when Raya rolled around, everyone waited excitedly for the Raya ads made by big named companies like Petronas, Celcom and TNB because they always either bring immense joy or heart-wrenching sobs from us Malaysians.
The ads for this year got a lot more creative and sentimental in lieu of the pandemic. It was a lot of fun to sit and binge watch. They made it very much relatable and as always, make sure to prepare some tissues because some of these are real tear jerkers!
Instagram and Twitter posts for Raya had also been entertaining, with the netizens calling it “Cov-Eid” to put a pun on things and make the situation a little bit lighter as well as sharing their experiences of their Raya celebrations on their socials. TikTok has also given Malaysians a platform to show off their beautiful baju raya outfits to the rest of the world.
Stay Home for a Better Tomorrow
So it might not be the Raya you hoped for, but it’s certainly another version of Raya that you might not have known you needed. Maybe this Raya made you sit down and reflect on your priorities, reminisce on the good old days and make you more grateful for what you used to have.
It could’ve made you more appreciative of the company you keep and realise that experiences and firsts are better when you have someone to share it with. Maybe this year, you got to build up new friendships, rekindle old ones and start banding together to make a sad situation slightly better. That’s quite a lot of “maybes” for you to choose from, and a lot of time to process through them.
This Raya, we would like everyone to sit down and count your blessings. It might have been a bumpy ride these past years but if you have a positive outlook on things, everyday is a good day.
Just like last year’s , this year has rules and SOPs which you have to follow to ensure that we can have a much better, family-and-friends-filled Raya for next year!
Salam lebaran from The Full Frontal team!