Like all the previous years of late, we spent Eid in Malaysia the same way. I was up at the crack of dawn preparing the Eid morning meal which we would eat together for the first time after fasting for a month. It was always difficult to eat at that time of morning but we do it – to break from the normality that was Ramadhan a whole month before. It was always a weird feeling to eat and drink on Eid day. Well, at first, anyway because as the day progresses, that was what everyone did all day long, and into the night sometimes, on the first day of Shawal.
Celebratory as it was, it seemed that the first day of Eid, was a day when eating was the order of the day!
After the non-obligatory congregational prayers at our neighborhood grand mosque, the Masjid Wilayah, we headed home to prepare to go to Mum’s where all the family would congregate.
But not before our now routine family photo shoot, something we started doing after getting our own home in KL again in 2009. It was actually something I really looked forward to on Eid morning. Once we leave the apartment, we go completely with the flow and see what happens. If we leave our Eid portraits to some other time during the day, it almost inevitably never happens!
Then it was off to Mum’s place. This was the third year we were celebrating Eid without Dad and I missed him. Especially with Mum in her condition. I couldn’t help wondering what Eid would be like if Dad was still around. Actually I couldn’t help wondering what everyday after Mum had her stroke would be like if Dad were still around. I really missed him.
Mum was as tearful as ever during the beraya ceremony. This was when all us children and our children took turns to salam (greet by clasping both our hands with the other person’s) with Mum and ask for her forgiveness. It used to start between Mum and Dad but now hubby and me get the ball rolling as the eldest members of the family.
We really take the trouble to do this as ceremoniously as possible and that means being organized. It means waiting patiently for everyone and their families to arrive. Getting Mum ready and wheeling her out and telling the younger kids to wait in line for their turn! Oh, and making sure the duit raya packets were ready to be distributed. Duit raya is literally “Eid money” and in Kuwait it is called Eidiya. Its a gift of money which we give to parents and other members of the family especially little children. If you’re married and / or working, you usually are not “eligible” for “duit raya” LOL
Mum usually gets a neat pile of duit raya from all of us – her children and her grandchildren. These days we get some really nice raya packets from department stores, banks and other establishment to put the crisp banknotes that make up the duit raya. So all the kids and grandchildren collect and show off their colorful packets of duit raya. One of my grand nieces, who is probably 5 years old, carries her own little handbag to keep all the duit raya she collects going house to house during Eid. In the old days we had pockets in our baju raya (Eid outfits) to hold the coins that were given to us as duit raya. Times change.
So ends the beraya ceremony at Mum’s. As far back as I can remember, next on the agenda was the family Eid lunch which Mum would take the trouble to plan and cook. It was always so special and the menu was almost always a savory tomato rice, Mum’s special beef dalca, her signature crispy fried gingery chicken and either her mint sambal or coconut sambal. She would start cooking the dishes for lunch early in the morning and we’d usually have to force her to stop and take a shower and get dressed in her finest Eid clothes for beraya!
I once told her (actually it was more than once) that it wasn’t necessary for her to cook lunch that day as everyone was happy feasting on her amazing Eid specialties: chicken rendang, beef rendang, satay sauce and her very secret snut, a kind of acar with all the different kinds of compressed rice like ketupat, nasi impit, lemang and ketupat palas. But I got a vehement “no” because Mum said it was only once in a year when every member of the family – well, almost everyone – was around and we could eat together.
The Eid lunch is only a distant memory now. The tradition is gone. It stopped when Mum suffered the stroke in 2010.
Hubby has a very cheeky way of motivating Mum to keep working on her strength and mobility: every time he spoke to her he would tell her that he couldn’t wait for her to walk and use her hands again. He really missed her cooking and he looked forward to her cooking her Eid specialties and her lunch dishes again. And she always said “InshaAllah”. God willing.
My parents’ home was always “open” during Eid, usually the first couple of days. They followed the old tradition of the true “open house” when visitors were always welcome – without an appointment or an invitation. Mum’s Eid specialties and her variety of home made cookies (sometime fifteen or twenty!) would be laid out on the dining table, plates and saucers, cutlery and glasses elegantly waited on the credenza. Well-wishers, visitors and neighbours streamed in non-stop to say hello and celebrate Eid with us. I know it tired Mum and Dad but Mum said she enjoyed it because it did justice to all the hard work she put into preparing her Eid spread! It was difficult for them to rest because just as there was a lull and we cleared everything up, more guests arrived. That was how it was until a couple of years ago.
This was how it was in the old days for everyone. Nowadays, some people still have these open houses on the first couple of days of Eid when its a public holiday but its usually by invitation. We usually have our own at the apartment on the second day of Eid or like this year, on the third day because it was a public holiday too. Its more convenient these days to organise an event on a specific day at specific times and invite friends and family over. You know exactly how many people to expect and how much food to prepare. Ours is not usually a large affair. We try to keep it intimate in the twenties or thirties although sometimes it does get busy with friends bringing friends and their families with them. We so enjoy this annual event at which we put our culinary skills into practice and serve up our Malaysian and Spanish specialties.
These days people hold their Eid open houses throughout the month of Shawal. And I mean throughout. There are open houses every weekend which are usually big, big occasions sometimes with fancy tents being put up, catered food and hundreds of guests invited.
I’m not a big fan of large, busy open houses and prefer the small, intimate and friendly gathering where I can enjoy an engaging chat and catch up with old friends and family. But that’s me.
In Kuwait the locals don’t have such a concept as open houses during Eid. In contrast, all the celebratory eating and socializing takes place in Ramadhan! Eid is a time to spend with family, chilling out. Malaysians who happen to be in Kuwait during Eid will of course spend the first day of Eid at an Embassy gathering. Later, like we did one year, some will have their own open houses. These, in the true spirit of being Malaysian, will inevitably carry on during the whole month of Shawal!
I get back to Kuwait in the third week and I suspect, there will be at least one open house to go to – one of my Malaysian friends already told me she would wait for me to get back before having her Eid open house. And another of my friends who now lives in Basel, Switzerland was organizing an Eid get-together of Malaysians living everywhere around Basel on 24th September…So there we go – here, there or anywhere, Eid traditions will be upheld, the Malaysian way.