Hari Raya Aidil Fitri or Eid al-Fitr is the festival that follows the completion of Ramadan observance and its celebrated quite differently depending on where we are.

While living in Malaysia, we would traditionally hold our “Raya open house” on the second or third day of Eid. Many of our Muslim friends would usually be very busy with their own open houses or family commitments at this time so our guest list would for the large part be our non-Muslim friends.

Its not uncommon for people to cater the event to cope with the hundreds of invited guests. However, we always served home cooked food during our open houses and we invite a comfortable group of people so that its still “personal”.

Our spread of food usually comprised traditional Malaysian Raya fare such as chicken and beef rendang, kuah satay (peanut sauce of the kind usually served with Malaysian satay) and serunding, which are usually eaten with ketupat nasi or ketupat palas or another form of glutinous rice cake, lemang. Then there are the home-baked or these days, commercial home-baked quality, Raya cookies, and cakes. I also normally prepare another Malaysian dish such as a rice dish like nasi tomato served with curry, or one or another form of laksa etc.

Then there’s the Spanish stuff. Hubby started it and now we never have an open house without Spanish food….tortilla Española, arroz con leche, turron, roscón de reyes or king’s cake….and paella.

I remember our Raya when we lived in Swindon, England, in 2000. Eid fell in the winter and it had snowed the night before.

Snow at Eid in Swindon, UK

It was too cold for our traditional Raya garb, so our Raya portrait was very un-traditional! But we still had rendang which we prepared ourselves and ketupat for breakfast of course!

Helping with the rendang...

We didn’t know any Malaysians in Swindon at the time..actually, we had just arrived the month before and didn’t know anyone! So instead of an open house, we drove to Bath and spent the day there. Hubby had his unforgettable “salmon-overdose-incident” at the Pump House Restaurant and it was one unforgettable Raya!!!

The following year we were moving to Dubai just after Raya and the packers had started packing our stuff. So we spent Raya that year in London…I remember we had the traditional breakfast of rendang and ketupat (we brought it with us from Swindon!!) in our hotel room, before doing touristic stuff!

Our first near-conventional Raya was in Dubai in 2002. We had our traditional open house for the first time in three years at our sprawling villa on the first day of Raya.

Our villa in Dubai

We must have spent the last three days of Ramadan cooking the traditional spread and I think we invited pretty much everyone we knew! That was the only Raya we spent in Dubai.

I’ve just realised that all these years in Kuwait and we’ve only spent one Eid here – in 2004. Danial was still at Uni and his vacation had just begun – he made it back here just in time for Eid the next day. It was cool weather but everyone bravely put on their Raya best for the Embassy do. There was one in the morning for Malaysians and their families and in the evening the Ambassador and his wife invited Kuwait dignitaries. We were invited to both. Lucky us.

Dan and friends - open house in the gardens at the Malaysian Embassy

On the second day we held our open house – we made the traditional stuff and I also made curry laksa which was a hit.

Rashad with the Ambassador

In 2006 hubby had to attend a conference in Capetown and we spent the last few days of Ramadan there. The Eid celebration was pretty much non-existent for us!

Raya 2006 --> Cape of Good Hope

We had booked a tour and spent the day driving along the South African coast. We ate seafood, saw a whale in Hermanus and tried to make friends with an ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope!

The ostrich at Cape of Good Hope National Park

I had met now-Facebook friend Shanaaz at the Waterfront one day before Eid and we exchanged phone numbers. She did invite us to have Eid lunch with her and her family but we didn’t make it. It was the first time ever that we did not spend Raya with Danial and I was heartbroken. Actually. Yes. So being on the tour helped to take my mind off feeling sad.

All the other Rayas since we’d been in Kuwait had been spent in Malaysia with Danial and my family. Before our apartment was ready, we spent Raya at my parents’ home in Petaling Jaya. The first day we would usually be at home helping my parents attend to family, friends and neighbours who visited them endlessly. In the evening we’d go out and visit a couple of our friends. One year we were out till midnight visiting friends and you can imagine how exhausted we were not to mention stuffed! The second and third days we would be out visiting more friends. Basically we visited and we ate till we dropped! Which is pretty much the Malaysian Raya tradition.

This year, of course, it was different as we had our own home again.

We hadn’t planned any kind of “open house” because somehow we were not in the “mood” until I realised hubby was already arriving from Kuwait! This was also the first Raya without my dear Dad. I just didn’t know how it was going to be for us. I started feeling emotional a few days before just thinking about all the Rayas we had spent with him. Mum started to feel sad a few days before as she reminisced about Eid and all the things we used to do with Dad. We cried when we talked about it.

Anyway, we thought we might do something. I’m sure Dad would have wanted us to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan without him. Danial wanted to invite some of his friends and colleagues and so we decided that we would also have a few friends over on the third day. Nothing big…just the normal fare and a handful of friends. We also never had the experience of organising an “open house” in an apartment, so why not.

On the morning of the first day at Mummy's...

Our little "open house" at our own home again

Part of the family came over the next day...

It turned out to be quite a busy Eid after all. I decided to serve paella in addition to the traditional Malaysian fare and I cooked paella everyday for four days! Except for the first day which we spent at Mummy’s, we entertained friends at home every day until yesterday! As a result we didn’t do too much visiting at all. There’s always next year.

Celebrating Raya is always fun. Never mind we are always still trying to recover from Ramadan and trying to return to normality..never mind that we always eat too much..never mind that we never seem to stop cooking or entertaining friends and family.

That’s the spirit of Eid.

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