It is less than a week away to Hari Raya Aidilfitri (read: the biggest, most lavish celebration in the Malay-Muslim community social calendar). With it comes along a list of things my mother, sisters and I go crazy for leading up to the festivities. And here you thought a month-long of fasting could wear us down. Like the Kardashian clan during Christmas – only Malay, Muslim, and down right Singaporean. Let’s get the cray-cray started.
10. Floral Bouquets
There’s nothing my mother loves more than her floral arrangements. And we’re talking real flowers, artificial flowers, Bohemia crystal flowers – from fresh lilies in the bedrooms to giant centerpieces for the dining and living rooms. Practically the whole nine yards of the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the house.
Flower arrangements are an essential part of the Hari Raya decor in the house. Potted palms trees are also a must for those with more cash to splurge. There are plenty of stalls selling ready-made arrangements and are always a hit at the Bazaar.
They say life isn’t a bed of (plastic) roses. They sure didn’t say it was this cheap. Ha!
Time to get your auntie mode switched on. Grab, ask for the best price and pay fast!
9. Carpets & Rugs
Carpets are all the rage, specifically the ones from the Middle East. Go for the Persian and Turkish carpets, because they’re known for their superior quality and workmanship. You know that hao lian cousin of yours who loves to compare? Now you can rub it in her face (figuratively) and tell her about your fancy new Persian carpet. Score!
The craziness is topped off with the nightly auction held by Fotohi Carpet Gallery during the fasting month. Prices start as low as 70% off retail value and they accept cash, NETS and major credit card payments. Now that’s something worth going crazy for.
The assortment of rugs is beyond comprehension. Carpet heaven? You don’t say.
Going once, going twice, and it’s SOLD. The Fotohi Carpet auction happens nightly throughout the fasting month.
8. Window Drapery
Curtains make or break your decor. And when Hari Raya is a 30-day festive season complete with several open houses for family and friends, those window drapes better leave an impression. From Roman blinds to formal french pleats to the simple rod pocket, day and night curtains, the choices are endless.
Singaporean Malay housewives (my mother included) are crazy about anything from custom-made drapery fit for the Istana, to ready-to-hang ones from the Bazaar.
A whole stretch of stalls selling an assortment of ready-made curtains, in a myriad of styles and colors.
Tip: Have a decor concept in mind and stick to it. The multiple choices available may blindside you.
7. Seasonal Food
Called dendeng, this delicacy is a thinly-sliced flavored dried meat. Think beef jerky or the non-pork, Halal-certified alternative to your Chinese New Year bak kwa. Sold both grilled and frozen, you can definitely spot the snaking queues at the stalls selling them.
The Geylang Serai Ramadhan Bazaar not only offers Hari Raya essentials, but glorious food as well. Source: mypeaceofheaven
The Dendeng is a crowd favourite and would attract long queues all through the night. Source: singaporefoodlover
6. Mehndi | Henna Art
Mehndi is the application of henna plant paste as a temporary decorative skin art. The green paste is applied till dry, washed off and leaves an orange mark. Traditionally associated with the Indian community, the trend of henna art has caught on with the Malay ladies since the early 90s, when it was seen during weddings. Today, it has become one of the many Hari Raya must-dos.
A favorite on the checklist for young girls (my sisters and nieces included), queues form on the eve of Hari Raya to adorn their dainty fingers and palms with floral designs. Mind you, these temporary works of art fade in due time, so it’s best to do it a night before the celebrations.
Henna leaves a shade between orange to dark reddish brown once left to dry. A must-do for young girls.
Little girls getting their henna done. Oblivious to the passers by judging how
amateur very interesting the designs are.
5. Jewellery (lots of it)
Be it costume jewellery or 24 Carat gold, Hari Raya is one of those days where it’s perfectly normal to be decked out in bling. Swarovski brooches, diamond-encrusted pendants and gold chains or bangles are all accounted for.
Mothers, daughters and their fashionable sons unite and scour through various places to find the best bling. For those on a budget, there are countless stalls scattered within the Bazaar offering various styles of costume jewellery. But if you’re more atas than that, then Tiffany & Co still sits best on those fingers.
Just another excuse to flaunt your wealth because everyone needs to know how much your hubby’s bonus was.
Costume jewellery stall offering a ‘Buy 3 Get 1 Free’ offer attracts quite a bit of frenzy.
4. Festive Lights
Synonymous to the local Malay homes during Hari Raya, colorful festive lights are a must-see during this festive season. You can spot the stalls selling these colorful lights down at the Bazaar from a mile away.
Pick your choice, from the normal blinking bulbs a la Christmas, to the more in-trend get-ups like the ketupat shaped ones. And just so you know, some people spend major bucks on these lights to decorate their windows and front porch.
Time to get your disco moves out. All you need are the smoke machines and you’re all set to club. No?
Apparently the trend for this year are festive lights in the shape of giant ketupats. No guarantee if it will score you swagger points from your guest.
3. Green Packets
Technically, you’re supposed to hand out green packets once you’re all independent and self-supporting. None of which I fall under…or at least I think so. Hence I can (and shall) still reap the social welfare benefits of this festive season. Heh.
Crispy new bank notes are all the rage, and those who have to give away green packets usually rush to get brand new notes. Or risk being judged by
evil naughty children from hell for distributing dollar notes from the wet market.
Green Packets aren’t actually green! Designs are an assortment to choose from as you can see here.
One of those kids who opens his green packet right in front of you and stares daggers if it isn’t up to his standards.
2. New Outfits
The Malays prides themselves on still being able to pull a cultural fest where every single member of the family tree is dressed in traditional threads. The Baju Kurung has since seen updates inspired by the trends. The latest being peplum blouses and pastel hues. The guys’ Baju Melayu has also been given more modern updates.
Should you wear the traditional Baju Kurung, or the Kebaya a la Singapore Girl? Or the Kebarung (which is a hybrid, I’m not even kidding)? Or the modernized peplum one with mermaid-cut skirt? The options are endless. Prices for both ladies and gents can start from as low as $50 and go up to the thousands, fit for a Sultan and his queen. From custom tailored outfits to off-the-rack outfits at the Bazaar, getting some new threads definitely makes one all set for Hari Raya.
Throngs of people, young and old hustle to search for that perfect pair of traditional threads.
3 Pairs for $100 is a pretty good deal. Then again, I have mine custom-tailored.
1. Pineapple Tarts
Finally, no Hari Raya celebration can ever be complete without Pineapple Tarts. A staple (or holy grail, whichever) in the array of treats served to guests during the festive season, every family has their own recipe. It is an annual baking fiasco in the kitchen. At least in the house where I live.
For those who aren’t quite that domestic, you can choose to order the Pineapple Tarts or visit the Bazaar to go on a tasting frenzy. One thing’s for sure though – every house has got to have it. And you can be sure that your guests will reach for those Pineapple Tarts before anything else.