Hari Raya etiquette

Hari Raya Puasa has arrived, and some of us might have been invited over to our friends’ homes to join in the festivities. But for those of us who aren’t too familiar with the customs behind this joyous occasion might be feeling rather clueless about the practices when visiting, or even engaging with family members during online Raya celebrations.

We talked to our Muslim friends to learn more about some dos and don’t during Hari Raya visiting, and the reasons behind them.

Note: As per new Covid-19 restrictions, social gatherings no longer have any limit.

More articles about Muslim culture:

Disclaimer: All photos were taken before Covid-19.

1. Hari Raya lasts for a whole month

As a non-Muslim, I only knew of Hari Raya as a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. But it goes beyond just family gatherings and delicious food – it’s a time to commemorate reconciliation. As a general custom, families will ask for forgiveness before and during house visits.

Reconciliation within family members
Image credit: Honour.sg

Before leaving, guests can depart with a simple “Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin.” This roughly translates to “Do forgive any wrongdoings I may have done, spiritually or physically.”

Though it may seem silly to say this to someone you may have just met, I learned that this can be said out of courtesy and respect to your hosts too.

Here are some other useful phrases to greet your Muslim friends with:

  •  Eid Mubarak: Arabic for “blessed celebration.”
  • Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Eid al-Fitr): Reinforces the idea that it’s the Festival of Breaking The Fast. Be careful not to confuse this with “Selamat Hari Raya Eid al-Adha” which is used for a different holiday!

Bonus: Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji are not the same holiday

Hari Raya Puasa, or Eid al-Fitr, refers to the Festival of Breaking The Fast. This marks the end of Ramadan, and shouldn’t be confused with Eid al-Adha – or more commonly known in Singapore as Hari Raya Haji – the Festival of Sacrifice.

And though “Hari Raya” translates to “day of celebration” in Malay, festivities actually last for a whole month. Eid al-Fitr marks the first day of Syawal (شوّال in Arabic), which is the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendar – which explains why we might see families going for visiting even after the official Hari Raya holiday.

2. It’s rude to eat or drink while standing up

Hari Raya Kuih Muih
Image credit: Citarasawan

As tempting as it may be, try not to wipe out the entire tray of yummy kuih muih – at least not before you invite your host to eat. As a form of basic courtesy, guests can use the phrase “jemput makan”, which means “let’s eat together”.

Muslim family celebrating hari raya
Image credit: Muhammad Amirul
Image for illustration purposes only

It’s also important to not eat or drink while standing up. If you’ve entered a house where all chairs happen to be occupied, it’s fine to sit on the floor too! And if you decide to eat with your hands, remember to use your right hand, as the left is considered “unclean”.

Of course, do be mindful of hygiene – use serving spoons for dishes and avoid sharing items so that everyone can stay safe during this time.

3. Guys don’t need to shake hands with ladies in the house

Of course with social distancing, it might be best to avoid physical contact altogether. In fact, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) advises that everyone practice the “Salam Mufti”, a greeting where one places their hand close to their heart.

MuslimSG | 5 Tips To Cope With Covid-19
Image credit: Muslim.sg

However, mingling between opposite genders is something visitors have been mindful of even prior to Covid-19, as some households might be stricter than others. For example, guys need not shake hands with the female figures of the house – a simple “hello makcik” would do. But when in doubt, just smile and wave.

4. Not only married people give out green packets

giving out green packets hari raya
Image credit: Youm7

While guests are not expected to give out green packets (or Duit Raya) during visiting, you are completely welcome to do so, especially when there are young children present, and if you’re already working. Green packets can also be given to the elders of the house as a form of respect.

Ramadan bazaars are a great place to get green packets in bundles for cheap – go for ones with unique designs that’ll add a nice touch to your gesture. And if you receive one, remember to accept them with both hands. You can even take things online with e-Duit Raya via online banking services too.

5. There are no strict rules on gifting

Likewise, there aren’t any strict rules on gifting either. Though it’s fine not to bring any gifts when visiting, it would be great not to turn up to your host’s home empty-handed! A safe bet would be a box of halal pastries, cakes or kueh – plus, it’s something everyone can enjoy too.

6. Inauspicious colours are not a thing

Malay Identity - Hari RayaImage credit: @farzanarama
Image for illustration purposes only

Other than feasting on dishes like rendang and lontong prepared by my lovely neighbours, one of my favourite things about Hari Raya is seeing families out and about in their matching outfits.

There isn’t actually a dress code to follow, in fact, visitors don’t need to wear baju kurung or other traditional clothes – though it’ll be extra special to do so! However, it’s important to dress modestly, so avoid short skirts or overly revealing necklines.

There aren’t any especially auspicious or taboo colours either, so feel free to wear any colour your heart desires.

Learning more about Hari Raya

Hopefully this guide has been able to shed more light on the traditions of Hari Raya. Regardless of whether we celebrate it or not, learning about different cultures is always important – especially in a multicultural society like our own.

With Covid-19 restrictions relaxing just in time for Hari Raya, it’s time to rekindle the spirit of celebration from year’s past.

And to all our Muslim readers, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri from the TSL family!

Cover images adapted from: Muhammad Amirul, @farzanarama
Originally published on 23rd July 2017. Last updated by Josiah Neo on 28th April 2022.

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