Marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is the festival of Eid, known in Singapore as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa. Ramadan is a period of sober repentance for Muslims, with approximately 30 days of dawn-to-dusk fasting. Adherents of the faith also devote much of the month to worship, charitable deeds and acts of compassion.
Many Malay families in Singapore don new clothes in the same hue – men in loose shirts with trousers known as ‘baju Melayu’ and the women in ‘baju kurung’, a loose-fitting full-length blouse and skirt combination.
The day begins with a trip to the mosque where special prayers are recited. Then it’s off to see the parents – Muslims traditionally ask for forgiveness from their elders for any wrongs committed during the year. More visits are made to see relatives and friends, where home-cooked feasts await.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Hari Raya meal, you’ll find a wide variety of dishes on offer – beef ‘rendang’ (spicy beef stew), ‘sayur lodeh’ (vegetables cooked in coconut milk gravy) and ‘sambal’ (chilli paste) – along with fluffy white rice and ‘ketupat’ (rice cakes).
The desserts are just as delicious, particularly the ‘kueh’ (cakes). Try the ‘ondeh-ondeh’, chewy balls with gooey palm sugar centres that explode in the mouth, or ‘putu piring’, steamed rice cakes with sweet grated coconut.
One of the highlights of Hari Raya Aidilfitri must be seeing the women don their most beautiful ‘baju kurung’, sometimes accompanied by a matching headscarf (‘tudung’). Often made of silk or hand-dyed batik, the vivid colours, lively patterns and delicate stitching along the baju’s collar make these outfits a sight to behold. This traditional costume continues to be worn even today because it is comfortable and practical for Singapore’s warm climates.