Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a festival celebrated after the month of fasting. Unfortunately, with the heightened measures imposed by the government to curb the increase of community cases, it may seem a little quiet this year.

Unless you’re in groups of two, you may not be able to visit your friend’s abode for visiting — say goodbye to the delicious lontong (rice cakes) and kuih (snacks).

Nonetheless, we share a gist of what and how the occasion is celebrated below, along with some fun facts that you may have been curious to know.


Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Hari Raya Light Up at the Kampong Glam precinct.
Image: Singapore Tourism Board

Each year, Muslims celebrate two different types of Hari Raya; Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Haji. To clear up any confusion, Hari Raya Aidilfitri marks the end of the fasting month, while Hari Raya Haji marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The festival is referred to as Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Aidilfitri. ‘Puasa’ refers to fasting in Malay, while ‘Aidilfitri’ refers to an Arabic term for forgiveness.

But, don’t worry about trying to pronounce them; merely wishing “Selamat Hari Raya” to your Muslim peers would suffice. Alternatively, you could also wish “Eid Mubarak”, an Arabic term wishing them a blessed celebration.

Unlike Hari Raya Haji which is celebrated for just a day, Hari Raya Aidilfitri spans for a month-long. Essentially, it feels like a one-to-one celebration after fasting for 30 days. During this month, Muslims visit their relatives to seek forgiveness, be it on purpose or unknowingly — even if you only meet them once a year.

Read more: Here’s why your Muslim Friends were fasting for a month

How it’s celebrated

Hari Raya announcement by Mufti.

Hari Raya starts from the moment the last night of fasting ends. The festival is officially announced by the Mufti (head of Islamic law) in each country on national television two nights before. When technology wasn’t as advanced back in the day, it depended on whether the crescent moon was visible in the sky. Today, indeed, it has been confirmed way beforehand following the dates of the Muslim calendar.

Here’s a fact: there were instances back in the days when the moon wasn’t seen, and everyone had to fast for an extra day. Just imagine all the mothers needing to keep all their ingredients meant for Hari Raya dishes and prepare for sahur (pre-dawn meal) instead.

Rendang, a dish of meat (chicken or beef) braised in coconut milk seasoned with herbs and spices, is typical of Hari Raya.

Image: @linagui.kitchen

That night, mothers then get busy preparing Hari Raya dishes for guests the next day whilst the young ones play with Bunga-api (firecrackers) or fill up the containers with the array of kuih. The others in the family then do a final round of spring cleaning, and of course, not forgetting to iron the traditional outfits to be donned on the morning of Hari Raya.

Morning of Hari Raya

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Magazine

Muslims then congregate at the mosque for a non-compulsory prayer on the morning of Aidilfitri. Similar to Terawih, Singaporeans had to pre-book their prayer slot online (sample above).  For unsuccessful bidders, the prayer was also able to be done at home nonetheless.

In 2020, Muslims in Singapore spent Hari Raya through Zoom calls with their families due to the Circuit Breaker.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Magazine

After the prayer, families then go for a round of forgiveness, starting with the eldest in the family. Of course, this includes some shedding of tears of remorse for all the wrongdoings throughout the year.

Following that, the day goes on with visiting relatives and close friends. Some families might also choose to gather at the abode of the eldest in the family and spend a day together, which is certainly much easier that way (back when Covid wasn’t around, that is).

The act of giving green packets

Image: @moggymau

It is believed that the act of giving “Duit Raya” (Raya money) came from the Chinese custom of giving red packets during Chinese New Year. Unlike the tradition of giving or receiving only when you are married, Muslims practice giving green packets once they are working adults or essentially if they have some money to spare. However, the monetary value is totally up to each individual, and isn’t compulsory to give.

Why is the religion associated with the colour green, you may ask. That’s because, in the Quran (holy book), the specific colour is defined as paradise. Contrary to that, all packets don’t need to be green in colour, so don’t panic if you want to offer some packets to your neighbours but all you’ve got are red packets.

Donning the same colour

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Magazine

A good indication that it is Hari Raya is probably seeing endless #OOTDs or family shots donning the Baju Kurung (for women) or Baju Melayu (for men) on your social media feed. It is indeed a beautiful sight to see the culture preserving its rich cultural traditions of donning those outfits despite how modernised it could have.

If you noticed, some families would wear outfits of similar colours and patterns. Again, this isn’t made compulsory but is seen to express how close-knitted a family is and, of course, also acts as an easy way to identify one’s family members when the extended family comes over for Hari Raya.

In recent years, businesses have also included matching traditional outfits for cats.

Image: Jessica Marie

The significance of the Ketupat

Image: Muhammad Saiful Aswandee Narudin/Getty Images

Come Hari Raya, it’s impossible not to take notice of the Ketupat decorations hung up in public. The Ketupat is a rice cake packed in diamond-shaped woven coconut leaves.

The intricate weaving pattern of the Ketupat is said to be representative of silaturrahim, a form of communal trust, friendship and camaraderie which is highly practised in both the Malay culture and Islamic traditions.

From the team at Butler Magazine, we’d like to wish all our Muslim readers a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri Maaf Zahir Dan Batin.

Feature image by Shariffah Nadia/Butler Magazine