The Raya Experience – What It’s Like

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It occurred to me that some of my friends probably don’t know what Malay people do at kampung during Raya. So I collated my Raya experience, hope you guys find this interesting! I know I get curious about what people do during Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and other festivities too 🙂

Let’s start from Day 0 – the day before Raya.

Note: This was originally written and posted on my personal FB page in 2015.

The Raya Experience – Day 0

Raya for us is kampung, my grandmother’s house (on my Mum’s side).

Balik kampung is the start of our Raya experience. Every year, without fail we will have a conversation about traffic jams. Avoiding traffic jam, thinking of people stuck in traffic jam, theorising when jams will subside, thinking of possible jam solutions, or (if we’re lucky) commenting about the lack of traffic jam. However, we have it good – our kampung is not that far at all. It takes just 2.5-3.5 hours to reach, depending on the traffic.

My family likes to use the ‘village roads’ instead of the highway. Firstly, less traffic jam. Secondly, we get to check out and buy last-minute foodstuff. Two years ago we stopped at 5 different lemang stalls. Last year we got meat and smoked meat (daging salai). This year we were under strict instructions not to buy anything else so we didn’t stop.

After arrived at kampung: say hey and salam everyone. Depending on whether manpower is needed, we might have to start work straight away. My family is orang nogori (Minangkabau*), so our Raya menu will always include gulai rendang. Omg I know I’m biased but our gulai is soooo good – the santan/coconut milk came from our own coconut trees. These are also staples: ribs soup, asam laksa, kuah kacang, tapai, etc. Traditions also change – when I was younger, we used to make ketupat, dodol and lemang from scratch.

*Minangkabau – a subset of Malay ancestry. I don’t know much about it, but I do know we are uniquely matrilineal, which is rare. This means that inheritances are passed to daughters, and men will marry ‘into’ our families instead of the other way around. We don’t follow it strictly, but the elders do observe it.

My kampung is nice because we have a lot of fruit trees behind the house. Last year was durian season, so we literally had more durian than we can eat. My grandmother sometimes turned the leftover durian into tempoyak (something I’ve yet to try actually). We also have yellow rambutans, coconut trees and ciku.

The last meal to break fast is usually a lively affair. We reunite with relatives and catch up. My family is relatively small (only ~20 of us), so you can imagine the bigger families.

After dinner, we turn on the TV to hear the Raya announcement and takbir Raya. If there are small children, we’d take out the bunga api or small fireworks to entertain them. Some of us will watch TV. Last year, there was a show about a poor but pious man who faced a lot of life challenges and ended up dying in the mosque. I enjoyed it, but ya the nice Chinese boss had to convert to Islam at the end of it – can’t Malay shows give a positive portrayal of people from other faiths without them joining Islam as the ultimate ending? *shakes head*

We also had a group of orang masjid who came over at about 11pm to recite some prayers. We fed them tapai pulut – something my relatives always bring over. Speaking of which, I’m told that tapai is technically alcoholic, since it’s fermented (very very very small %)? This is the one that’s will turn into tuak, right? I have no idea, but it tastes good.

At night, after the work and cooking are done, we just hang out – the best of us will start ironing their Raya clothes (not me). Some will have their second/third dinner (me). Some will munch on Raya cookies (me). Some will be glued to TV. Some will have slept- long day.

Throughout the night, you can hear fireworks and mercun sounds – it’s like a friendly competition, whoever’s is brighter and louder, wins. When I was younger, I heard more meriam buluh (bamboo cannon?) sounds. We also heard a lot more ‘anak so-and-so lost their fingers’ stories 0_0

The Raya Experience – Day 1

This is what Hari Raya is like for Malay people at kampung.

The day usually starts early – Raya prayers start at 9am, so you have to arrive at the mosque by 8:30 to get good seats. Before that, you have to eat (it’s forbidden to fast on Hari Raya), bathe (sunat ie extra pahala if you do it) and dress in your Raya best.

For me, it’s usually easy to wake up because it’s so noisy -_- Everyone wakes everyone up and we fight to use the toilet and ironing board. Someone will be yelling for someone to hurry up, but it’s all in good banter.

So we all go to the local kampung mosque, pray (some kid will cry in the middle of prayers), and listen to the Raya sermon. Last year the topic was about how Malaysians are arbitrarily practising different types of Islam besides Sunni Islam and it shouldn’t be encouraged because it would break up the ummah (Muslim community). I don’t agree, but hey you just listen. This year it’s about the terror that is ISIS. I remember previous Raya sermon topics – remembering Muslims celebrating Eid while their countries are in conflict, how we should mourn Ramadan month as it was spiritually rewarding, etc.

They also asked the congregation if anyone wants to donate aircon to the mosque :/

After that, we wish each other (the kampung folk) Selamat Hari Raya as we leave. I didn’t grow up in kampung, so I barely know anyone – I’m always the ‘cucu Induk yang pergi Jepun dulu tu’ (translated: ‘Induk’s granddaughter who went to Japan’) (Induk is my grandmother). I smile as I get more ‘when are you going to get married’ questions… Well, you’re supposed to forgive anyone and anything…

Back from mosque at about 10am, that’s when we take our Raya pictures, salam our elders, give/receive Raya packets and eat some more.


In fact, the rest of the day is a nonstop makan fest. When not eating, you’re digesting before you eat some more. Some of us would go visit our relatives and friends, some of us will be on house duty. House duty means to help top up the Raya cookies jars, make drinks, wash dishes.

When we visit friends and relatives, we get to sample different dishes. Different Malay families would have their own Raya specialities. I’ve been served anything from laksa to mee kari to Nasi dagang – anything goes. Some serve speciality kuih or desserts (ours is tapai). It really depends.

Naturally, the TV will stay on all day. At some point, Siti Nurhaliza will serenade us. Malay dramas will have a lot of people dying and a lot of people repenting (like usual, but with – plot twist – a Raya theme). The news will report accidents and stories of Muslims celebrating outside of Malaysia.

This is my Raya experience on Day 1, more or less

The Raya Experience – Day 2

Day 2 Raya depends on your marital status, usually. If married, you might go off to visit the family of your other half. You may even leave as soon as the night of Raya Day 1. If you’re not married, you stay on at your kampung.

The morning also starts early – you get ready in your practical Raya dress to visit the graveyard. My kampung, Simpang Pelangai is the final resting place for my parents’ firstborn (my eldest brother), my mum’s sister, and my grandmother’s parents.

At the graveyard, we recite prayers in a big group, then visit our family members’ graves. In all honesty, and I say this because I’ve visited other types of graveyards, Muslim graveyards tend to be less…tended. It’s sad to see overgrown bushes until it’s hard to find the markers. When I die, I will probably be buried here. Selfishly, until that happens, I hope things will change.

After that, you go home.  You’re encouraged to shower right away – they say ‘just in case anything follows you’ which is creepy as hell.

After that, it’s free time. The majority of our family members leave to visit relatives who live further away. The strategy is to divide and conquer – one car/family go a few places and families on behalf of everyone else. What I don’t understand is, why they almost never call beforehand because sometimes, they would return home disappointed because the other party is not at home!

This year I visited some family members from my Dad’s side, who I don’t know that well. Some Rayas, we’d have a small tahlil gathering – recite prayers dedicated to our family members who have left us.

Here’s to future Raya experiences

I used to take kampungs for granted until I realised how much of a privilege it is to be part of it. My kampung is getting more and more developed. There’s a 7-11 here now! When I was younger, I had more kampung experiences like: chasing away stray goats that entered our compound, falling asleep to sound of rain hitting the zinc roof (it’s been replaced with roof tiles), going to the primitive toilet outside the house, bathing in the cold well water… Things like that.

Ending this post with Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin – forgive me for anything bad that I’ve done. Thanks for following my financial journey as well as the support you gave me. Love you guys.

Edit: The pandemic has obviously changed everyone’s Raya experience. But aside from that. On 9 July 2018, my grandmother passed on, which meant our Raya experience has never been the same since. Please recite AlFatihah and prayers to Hajah Kamariah binti Sidek. We miss her very much.

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  1. Oh my… your writing makes me miss my kampung so much. Didn’t have chance to go back for raya this year. Can’t wait for eid-adha to gather with my beloved parents and family and friends.

    I am minangkabau too came from Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan 🙂

    1. Hey there brethren 🙂

      I’m sure your family can’t wait to have you around, too. What a privilege to have that kind of love. Wishing you advance Aidiladha Am 🙂

  2. Many thanks. Yes, I need that. Living in the ‘sand-box’ can be bored as hulahoop most of the times.

    Your writings are awesome.

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