Saturday, October 20, 2007

Raya '07 : 1st Day (Part 1) - Of Family Traditions

(My cream colored Baju Melayu for Hari Raya - better known in the family as hopefully "baju nikah" )

My Raya break actually started the day before Hari Raya since I had a whole boatload of unused leave days to clear before the end of the year. Since I’ve already done my part of the Raya preparations by making the dodol the weekend before, I only had a few things left to do on my raya preparation checklist. Highest on that list was to cut up the huge bundle of the pandan leaves into fine slivers to be mixed with flowers and rose water. This is a very common item that Malays would bring when visiting the gravesites of loved one on Hari Raya morning. We would scatter them on top of the graves in somewhat of an offering which is not really one since there is no such requirement in the religion. I guess it is more of a traditional thing we do on top of the offering of prayers to the dead when we visit.

The whole thing nearly took me half a day to complete since my dad bought so much this year. It’s always been a big chore for me to do it since everyone would insist that the slivers of pandan leaves be as fine as possible. Given that I’m all thumbs when it comes to handling knives or any sharp kitchen implements, it took me longer than others to finish it all. While I was doing that, my youngest sister was busy baking the raya cookies in the kitchen. She has taken over the task of making our yearly batch of pineapple tarts and chocolate chip cookies from my mum since she perfected her recipe same years back. The two cookies would be the one visitors would find most every year at our house. Occasionally we would have a few others that would be either homemade or store bought but you could almost be certain that we would have pineapple tarts and chocolate chip cookies on offer.

My youngest brother would be the one tasked to clean up the house from top to bottom. Out of all the siblings, he is the best housekeeper of the bunch unlike me who would actually let dust bunnies breed before putting a broom to them. The funny thing is that he would always be grumbling when he does it so he sounds so much like an old matron when he has to do it even though he always told us that he prefers doing the house work compared of every thing else on the work list. It’s hard not to giggle around him when he starts complaining to himself about how dusty things can get even when they were all in glass cabinets. He usually would have my third brother to help him out but this year my third brother was still dealing with his divorce and was not much in the helping/celebrating mood. We had hoped that he would have snapped out of it by now but it seems that it would take him a while to get back on his feet again. Till then we all agreed to give me the space that he needed.

My second sister came later in the evening with her brood to help my mum with the cooking. This year we had chicken rendang, beef kurma curry, fish in tauchu sauce and the obligatory Javanese sambal goreng. Being a family with varied tastes, mum always made sure that we had something that we loved to eat for Hari Raya so the chicken was for my youngest brother, beef was for everyone else, fish was for my father who would eat nothing else and the sambal goreng was all mine. Another family raya tradition is that would always have both ketupat nasi (made with normal rice wrapped in coconut leaves) and ketupat palas (made with glutinous rice wrapped in palas leaves) . This tradition came about from us being split in the middle when it comes to our preference for the type of ketupat to eat. Of course me being me, I like them both equally and would indulge myself on them more then I should. Fortunately no one in the family particularly crave lemang for Hari Raya or else we would have to get that as well.

Hari Raya morning would be quite a hectic one since everyone would be waiting their turn to bathe before going to the mosque for Aidil Fitri prayers. It could easily be resolved by have everyone wake up earlier but somehow that never works in my family. The men of my family are well known to be heavy sleepers who always needed a bit help to wake up early in the morning. We did manage to get everyone bathed and dressed by 8 am since we had to be at the neighborhood mosque by 8:30 am for Aidil Fitri prayers. This year, I decided to go along with the whole group and wear both my songkok and samping with my baju melayu. I would normally in previous years be the odd one out who would just be wearing baju melayu to go for the Aidil Fitri prayers. I guess I did make the effort to buy a new samping when I was on my Perhentian trip so not wearing it on Hari Raya would just be wasteful.

After Aidil Fitri prayers, we all returned home to start the next must do thing on Aidil Fitri morning. I don’t know if it’s the same with other families but the act of asking forgiveness on the morning of Hari Raya is always been a hilarious one for me since we all grew up. When we were younger, there was always a somewhat formal occasion to it and we would know when to expect it. Nowadays, we would just end up waiting for it to start since it all depends on when my mum gets ready in the morning after Aidil Fitri prayers. The rule in the family was my mum would start the ball rolling by asking for forgiveness from my father then all the children would follow according to age. So after my mum, my turn came to ask forgiveness from my father then my mum then I would take my seat for my next sibling in line and so on till the youngest sibling. The funny thing is that we would all be waiting around for my mum to start the ball rolling which is becoming more later in the morning as the years pass. It something that we had to do before we could get to eat but no one wanted to jump the queue (so to speak) before my mum had her turn.

After all have been forgiven for the past year’s grievances and finally got to sit down for the first of many family meals, we had to prepare to receive our next door neighbors would come and visit us this year. Since all my grandparents have passed away, my parents’ Selayang house has become the de factor kampung for us. We still have relatives in Pontian but officially when we tell people that we were going to ‘balik kampung’, it would definitely be going back to Selayang. Both our neighbors were in the same situation so on alternate years, we would exchange visits to each other houses early on Hari Raya morning. Some years we three would be the only Malay households left in the area since everyone else had their kampungs to go back to. Over the years, the tradition would keep all three families close to each other so much so we consider each other as extended family. Add to the fact that we were the first 3 households to live in the area when it first opened and have shared many births, weddings and deaths, it would be hard to imagine not getting visits from them on Hari Raya morning.

(to be continued)

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