What You NEED To Know When Celebrating Hari Raya Puasa In Singapore

The month of Ramadan has just started and here's what you need to know about the celebrations that follow after the holy fasting month.
13 April 2021

You don’t want to miss your opportunity to gorge on good food and feast your eyes on colourful traditional costumes.

Eid al-Fitr, known commonly in Singapore as Hari Raya Puasa, is approaching this year on 13 May 2021.

Celebrated by Muslims all over the world on of the first day Syawal (the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendar), it is a joyous occasion and most will spend the day visiting family and friends. If you’re joining the festivities and visiting your Muslim friends or colleagues this year, make sure to scroll through the gallery below to find out what to do so you can avoid making any faux pas this Hari Raya.

We’ve told you what you need to know about Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore and if you’ve been invited to join in Hari Raya celebrations at someone’s home, we answer some of the questions you might have.

The Do’s And Don’ts

1. What to wear

There are no restrictions on what colours you can and cannot wear. But you should ideally be dressed modestly. Let’s just say this is not the time for cleavage and thighs or anything tight-fitting.

You don’t have to be dressed in the traditional baju kurung but if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, this is a perfect occasion to rock one. (It’s really comfortable and ladies, it looks good any practically anyone.)

2. Do I need to bring a gift?

No. It’s perfectly fine, really, as you are invited solely for the pleasure for your company. But if it’s so ingrained in you to never turn up empty handed, drinks and snacks (make sure it’s all halal though – so skip the alcohol-spiked ice cream tubs!) are always a safe choice. You can also choose to prepare duit raya for the kids, especially your host’s kids.

Don’t worry about green packets either, as they’re not expected of non-Muslims. However, if you really want to join in the fun, you can give a green packet for your host’s children. The amount is totally up to you (instead of the complicated affair that ang paos are) and you can get empty ones from convenience stores or the Malay Heritage Centre.

If your host were to offer a green packet to your kids, teach them to receive it with both hands. A simple “thank you” works, but it’s good to also repeat the greeting “selamat hari raya”.

3. What time do I visit?

If you’re invited to an Open House, you can generally arrive anytime but you might want to check with your host if they have a preference just to be sure.

4. What do I do when I arrive at the house?

The obvious answer would be to ring the doorbell or knock on the door. But if the front door is left open and there are already other guests who saw you at the door, don’t worry, someone will inform the host about your arrival.

Bonus tip: If you get a little lost trying to locate the flat or apartment, it’s mostly likely the one with fairy lights decorated outside and a lot of shoes at the entrance.

And yes, please remove your footwear before entering the home. It is very, very, unlikely that your hosts wear shoes indoors. It’s fine if you want to leave your socks on.

5. What do I do when I’m inside?

When you arrive, make a point to look for your host (and his or her parents) and greet them with “selamat hari raya,” which loosely translates to “happy joyous day” in Malay. Another version you might come across is  “Eid mubarak”, which is “blessed celebration” in Arabic.

You might have seen a Muslim take an elder’s hand and kiss it; go ahead and do that if you’re comfortable, but it’s also okay for non-Muslims to greet with a simple hand-shake. But remember this: Cross-gender contact is frowned upon, so don’t go shaking hands with someone of the opposite gender. When in doubt, just stick to greeting with a smile and a nod.

The nature of hosting an open house means the hosts are usually busy but naturally, they will try to attend to their each of their guests. There may be other guests when you get there but you’ll be shown to your seat either at the dining table or on the couch in the living room. Don’t be surprised to see guests sitting on the floor — it’s totally cool. (In some cases, family members who are close to the host may also enter bedrooms if there’s no space in the common areas.)

At this time, your host or someone in the family will probably serve you something (non-alcoholic) to drink. If you’re asked if you want a hot or cold drink, they’re trying to ask if you prefer coffee/tea or soft drinks.

6. Do I have to talk to every single guest in the house?

Not really. Sometimes, your host may not have the time to introduce you to everyone but you can just offer smiles and it’s also okay to engage in some small talk. Sometimes the entire house is a little loud and rowdy as family members catch up with each other in a festive mood – it’s normal.

7. What will be served to eat?

There will probably be a buffet spread of yummy Malay food such as ketupat, lemang, lontong (pictured), and rendang. Your host may also choose to switch it up a little or add other types of food on the side, so you might be in for a surprise.

And you’ll be invited to help yourself to the array of kuihs, cookies, cakes and other snacks which were made or bought specially for the occasion. Your host may point out which ones they personally made (or were made by family members). Taste those and share your verdict. And try not to hog a particular kuih even if you absolutely love them. It would be polite to leave some for other guests even if your host insists they have more to refill. And yes, you can be rest assured everything that is served is halal.

*Note that anything with pork, pork products, and alcohol will NOT be served as they are forbidden in Islam.

8. Will I have to eat my meal with my fingers?

You might see some guests doing this and you’re welcome to follow suit if you’re comfortable! Make it a point to wash your hands before joining in at the table, even if your host has laid out a set of fork and spoon for you. And always use your right hand to receive or pass food as the left hand is considered unclean. Otherwise, you can always politely ask for cutleries.

9. Can I choose not to eat?

You could but it might come across as being impolite. You can have a small portion but your host will probably encourage you to have more.

10. So I’m done eating. What’s next?

Erm, that’s about it, really. You’re not expected to stay for a specific period of time so you can make your move when you’re ready especially when there are new guests visiting or the home seems a little overcrowded with guests.

Before you leave, your host may seek forgiveness as this is a common practice and you might hear the term “Maaf Zahir dan Batin” which loosely translates to seeking forgiveness from the inside out. You should reciprocate and it’s fine to apologise in English.

If you brought your kids with you, they will likely receive duit raya from your hosts and maybe other guests who are there. And there you have it. You’ve survived your first Hari Raya Puasa house visit!

Till then, The Finder wishes all our Muslim friends a blessed Ramadan!

By Muneerah Bee, July 2016 + some text adapted from Singapore Women’s Weekly / Updated by Melodi Ghui, June 2019 / Updated by Willaine G. Tan, April 2021 / Images: 123RF.com

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More on The Finder:
The Beginner’s Guide To Ramadan And Hari Raya Puasa In Singapore
Here’s How You Can Grow Your Own EDIBLE Home Garden In Sunny Singapore
How To Adopt A Pet In Singapore: Find Out The How-Tos In Adopting A FUR-mily Member!

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