Few days before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and my family was already preparing to welcome the first day of the month of Syawal that marks the start of Hari Raya celebrations. You might say, "What celebrations? We're not even allowed to visit other family members." Well, that's true. But tell that to my parents, who are at this very moment, waiting patiently for the ketupats to cook while banging out festive dish after festive dish.
With Singapore now in its seventh week of its government-sanctioned circuit breaker, 2020's Hari Raya is set to look and feel more different than it has ever been. What would typically be a month-long celebration of merry-making, house-visiting and seemingly endless supply of once-a-year food and goodies, will be reduced to a relatively solitary affair.
Mosques islandwide are still closed, which means that morning Hari Raya prayers will have to be done at home instead with the takbir (communal prayer call) and sermon set to be played over the radio and online. Family members from different households are also still not allowed to meet or visit each other's homes.
But with the Muslim community being one that prides itself on holding strongly to familial and community ties, despite whatever the circumstances may be, certain aspects of the festivities that can still be safely observed are still being done. For one, the favoured Geylang Serai market was still buzzing with activity as people proceeded to buy ingredients for Hari Raya dishes.
And for someone who have repeatedly told everyone around him that Hari Raya is 'cancelled', I've personally bought two new sets of baju kurung—one from local brand Maison Q, and another set by Malaysian label Ana Abu. Why? I honestly have no answer to that. Perhaps, subconsciously, I am trying to muster up some form of normalcy. And Hari Raya, isn't really Hari Raya without some new threads.
To find out how the stylish and fashion-obsessed are readying themselves for a new Hari Raya experience, I reach out to some of my Muslim friends in Singapore's fashion industry—some of whom have been known to undergo pretty intense Hari Raya preparations. And find out what they're doing to keep traditions and the celebratory spirit alive.
Rohaizatul Azhar, lecturer and marketing content editor
Because of the 'work from home' directive, I have been roped into doing a lot more household chores and assisting in the baking of Raya goodies. So it is definitely different from previous years. This sounds horrid but I usually try to 'escape' doing certain things (like cleaning the window grills) by being in the office. (laughs) But in all seriousness, I don't think there are much changes. Maybe the number of kuihs made have reduced to only our favourites, and we haven't bought anything at all.
You know what's funny? I've been telling myself—and anyone who'll listen—that Raya 2020 is cancelled. But I've also just received my seventh Raya outfit that I bought online. (laughs) I guess that's my coping mechanism and my way of ensuring that there's some semblance of normalcy. Oh and also that my family still cooks the special dishes that only appears in this house during Syawal, such as rendang, and serunding. But also, my family and I will still get dressed in our baju kurung on the first day of Eid.
I'll be wearing my red baju kurung, which was made and worn three years ago. Our new baju kurungs are still at the tailors in Johor!
Tapak Kuda (or nutella roll). This is a nutella dessert (snack?) that I look forward to every Hari Raya because my mother only makes it once a year. Thank goodness she decided to make it this year. Also, the Zoom session with our extended family. It will be very different but sounds exciting enough!
Because my parents are the eldest, everyone usually gathers at my house on the first day of Hari Raya. This means my uncles, aunties, cousins and their children will all be decked out in their outfits and spend the whole day in my house—that's at least 40 people. The atmosphere is usually very loud and noisy, filled with laughter and chatters throughout the house. We'll have a fun time catching up with one another and take a big family photo. Then, the young ones will excuse ourselves to go and take our own group photos as well as various OOTD shots. This year, that's not going to happen. So, I guess I will miss that.
Sha Shamsi, hair and makeup artist
It is quite different for me this year. I'll have to prepare Eid for my own family, when usually, we would just be visiting my grandparents on the first day of Syawal.
I am not too concerned about keeping to the normalcy. It's going to be a unique Raya, and I want to embrace and enjoy it; make it a memorable one.
We have decided to keep to a simple jubah.
I'm looking forward to the takbir that everyone is planning to do through social media, as well as the planned mass takbir.
But I'll miss meeting my family members. I have a huge family and it's relatively hard to meet each other separately. So we would usually meet at my grandma's for Hari Raya. This year, I won't know when we will get to meet. And I'll also miss visiting my dad's grave.
Shaf Amis'aabudin, co-founder of Mash-Up
My dad has a baju kurung store in Joo Chiat Complex. Due to the circuit breaker, this is the first time ever that we are home during the fasting month; usually, we would only be home at 4am on the eve of Eid. This is very strange to me as usually during Ramadan, I would try to frequent my dad's store to help out. I've not seen my parents since the start of the circuit breaker so I've hardly done any preparation, to be honest. Maybe just cleaning more intensely.
I live with my grandma and she still insists on having kuih for Hari Raya. So I guess that's as close to normal as it gets. And also watching sad Raya shows and listening to Raya music playing on the radio.
Somehow I've realised that I don't have any baju kurung with me now; they're all at my parents'. My dad really takes care of his baju kurung so I leave it to him to handle these things. So I'm still unsure of what to wear.
I'm looking forward to see my parents and having lunch.
I do love Raya—seeing family and relatives and updating on each others' lives. Somehow, people are extra nice during Raya, so I love that. I will miss waking up at noon and rushing out of the house because we will always be the last family to go out for visiting. And the food.
Lena Kamarudin-Tambunan, journalist and stylist
There aren’t so much preparations, to be honest, since no one can come over. I still do my floral arrangements to beautify the house for Zoom meetings with the family. I also bake cookies and will bake a cake on the first day of Syawal just for fun!
We make sure we still have all the traditional Hari Raya food like lontong, rendang, ketupat, etc. Oh and of course, my mom’s pineapple tarts that she couriered over! Food always brings back fond memories from my childhood and I want to make sure my children will have something to remember Raya by.
Sadly, we can’t go to the mosque, so we'll turn on the radio to follow the live telecast of the Syawal prayers. After which, we will have our Raya breakfast feast (we do it every year together with my family) and then a Zoom celebration with my family.
Celebrating with my family, and creating new Raya traditions with my children—two things I'm looking forward to.
I'll definitely miss my family. Hari Raya is always about being with your loved ones, and not being able to be with them physically really breaks my heart.
Furqan Saini, fashion director
Let’s be honest: The pandemic has changed the world overnight. Raya this year is definitely a smaller, quieter affair for the family. But that being said, I check my privilege and I’m thankful that we’re safe, happy and most of all healthy.
I think for many of us, what we’ll miss most will be the traditions. I love going to the mosque on Hari Raya morning. The takbir greets the new month of Syawal and signifies the end of Ramadan. That will be missing this year, but hey, we get to do this at home! We’ll be dressed in new clothes, we’ll have the customary lebaran lunch and then we’ll ask for forgiveness. Cue the waterworks!
Something simple as always—this year’s outfit will be black! Embroidered black pants from Giambattista Valli x H&M and a baju kurung top. I’ll be wearing my batik shirts for the rest of the week to celebrate too.
Things I'll be looking forward too: my mum’s kick ass ayam masak merah and my brother’s charcoal roasted rendang. Also the annual Raya family picture sans my older sister and her family.
I will miss going to the kampung mosque in the morning and visiting my late grandmother’s grave. I might complain, but hey, I will miss being with the extended family (and the extended visiting hours (laughs)). I will also miss the kids at the orphanage in Jogjakarta that I spend a lot of time at. I know the first day of lebaran is quiet for them since they don’t have visitors. My heart goes out to them.
Sue Lastrie, regional communications
It has been quieter and more focused on the month of Ramadan, instead of preparing for Raya celebrations. Since there wouldn’t be any visiting this year, there's been no manic shopping and lesser pressure to overturn the house for spring cleaning! I am mighty pleased.
The single most important thing for Raya day one is spending time with my grandma. It won't beat quality face time and getting hugs in person, but we’re arranging for WhatsApp video call sessions with my extended family here in Singapore and abroad. To get into the mood, I’ll hit up Spotify for the best Raya playlists and bake some cakes to nibble throughout these virtual catch ups.
Speaking with my grandma via video call—I'll be anticipating lots of amusing laughters, questioning why she can see our faces on a screen, or seeing a fixed view of her forehead or ear during the conversation.
Raya is one of the occasions where we’d flex our creativity as a family to design custom-made outfits. More often than not, these outfits make a single debut before taking their places in the wardrobe. So this year, with our growing intention to practice sustainability while enjoying fashion, we’ll have fun restyling existing pieces.
The lovely chaos when the extended family and friends gather, is something I'd miss.
Firdaos Pidau, footwear designer
For once, I’m not scrambling to shop for a look, or drafting out a new excuse to explain why I’m still not married.
The house is still getting a thorough clean, new curtains, new cushion covers—the works. Festive food is still being prepared, and we are still going to be in our festive clothes.
A super simple black Thai silk kurta with black-on-black embroidery along the collar, with matching dhoti pants, and my favourite barely-there Ann Demeulemeester sandals from spring/summer 2012.
We are in bleak times, so I am simply looking forward to my usual morning coffee now that the fasting month is over.
I'll actually miss almost everything about Raya, even dodging 'When are you getting married?' questions from aunties.