Before the feasting, there’s the fasting… And we’ve got a list of everything you need to know about Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa.
Hari Raya Puasa is an integral part of Singapore culture, and it’s a time for Muslims to focus on familial bonds. But before we get to the good food and celebrations, there is first a month of abstinence known as Ramadan. Get yourself clued in with these…
What is Ramadan?
It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and a period of fasting prior to the Hari Raya Puasa festivities.
During Ramadan (this year, it will last from 12 April to 12 May 2021), the Muslim community refrains from eating or drinking from dawn until dusk. The fasting is meant to bring Muslims closer to God by detaching themselves from worldly pleasures, as well as to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. It’s also a time for physical and spiritual discipline and charity, and is considered to be an auspicious month for Muslims.
So what then, is Hari Raya Puasa?
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the start of a Muslim New Year, but a celebration to mark the end of the fasting month.
How does a typical day of fasting go?
The day begins with a pre-dawn meal known as sahur, followed by the fast until sunset, when families and friends gather for the iftar. This is when the fast is broken with dates before a full meal.
What are some of the traditions practiced during Hari Raya Puasa?
On the morning of Hari Raya Puasa, members of the family seek forgiveness from their elders after prayers at the mosque, and young children are given little green packets of money, similar to the Chinese hong bao (red packet). Some families visit the cemetery on the morning of Hari Raya Puasa to pay their respects to departed relatives and loved ones. You’ll also see families dressed in outfits of the same colour, which is a common way of displaying unity.
Should I bring a gift if I’m invited to a friend’s home for Hari Raya Puasa?
While these are not required, you can bring along a small gift, or buah tangan, if you like. Recommended gift ideas include desserts such as cookies, cakes or traditional Malay kueh to share with visitors. You can find these at bakeries or supermarkets. But steer clear of all things alcohol and, of course, avoid pork.
Before Covid struck, these two places were the best places to soak in the Ramadan and Hari Raya atmosphere.
- Geylang Serai: During the festive period, Geylanhg Serai is usually transformed into a colourful world of food and fabric during the month of Ramadan. Besides textiles, Geylang is a vibrant foodie haven which houses a vast selection of savoury snacks and Malay street food like kuih gulung (green crepe with sweet coconut filling), keropok lekor (fish crackers), goreng pisang (banana fritters), kebabs and the ever popular Ramly burger and Roti John (thick omelette sandwich) which hail from Malaysia. While the market will still be lit up from April 9 to May 23, the bazaar will be moved online this year for safety.
- Arab Street: To buy traditional Malay outfits, head for Arab Street, which has beautiful fabrics and ready-made baju kurung for women, and the baju Melayu for men.
By Hazel Vincent De Paul, The Finder, June 2016 / Additional reporting by Pinky Chng / Updated in April 2021 / Images: The Straits Times + 123RF.com
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