Raya is here, and there will be plenty of feasting, merry-making and visiting! We asked some mums and grandmums around town to find out about Raya etiquette that families, children and guests should follow during this festive season.
Dressing for The Occasion
Raya is a time for families to dress up nicely – it’s part of the fun! Even if there is no real taboo when it comes to the choice of colours, try to join in the Raya fashion fun with your more vibrant clothes. And if you’re a visiting guest, sexy, sleeveless or overly casual wear may be frowned upon. “My son’s Chinese friends came in shorts some years ago – practical for them but not so nice for the occasion,” says R. Ismail.
Modest clothing is best, traditional clothing is even better, and for practical reasons, try to avoid heavy materials and high heels – plenty of visiting in warm weather may get you all hot and bothered.
Although Raya open houses are generally free and easy and welcoming throughout the day, it is worthwhile for non-Malay guests to understand when it is best to visit. Malay families usually spend time together in the morning during the first day of Hari Raya, seeking forgiveness, taking family photos and maybe going to the mosque for special prayers. Some may also visit graves of loved ones. So try not to visit so early!
Greetings & Salam
Always remember to greet and salam the host or hostess as or before you enter a house you are visiting. Ideally you should only enter with permission. Take off your shoes before entering the house. We have heard that children these days tend to skip the greet and salam upon entering, so parents can gently remind them not to make this very basic but fundamental etiquette. Remember to salam elders when you see them anywhere, and wish everyone a Selamat Hari Raya. Generally, shaking the hands of someone of the opposite gender is not usually done – if in doubt, just nod, wave or give a big smile.
Gifts and Duit Raya (Money packets)
Gifts are not expected at Raya open houses, so you don’t have to panic if you’re a non-Muslim guest. Of course if you can’t help yourself and want to bring something, some food or kuih (Malay cakes) will do nicely. If you’d like to get into the fun of things, you can also give money packets to the children of the hosts.
Speak to your children about duit raya etiquette, before they go visiting and receive those money packets. Tell them that it is polite to hold off opening the packets in front of everyone – some kids declare the amount, or that it is too little! This can be very embarassing and offensive to the giver, so remind your children that duit raya is a bonus and not something to be expected at every house they visit. Especially in the kampung!
Food, food, food!
When you visit multiple houses in a single day, sometimes you may try and avoid eating. It’s a little hard to eat so much, especially after a month of fasting! But if you know you are visiting many houses, try to minimise your food intake so you can have a little something at each house you are visiting. Save some space each time! “Especially with older relatives in the kampung, if you visit and refuse to eat, you could really hurt their feelings,” says Najmin Tajudin.
When eating, remember to receive or pass on food with the right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean.
In most houses you visit, you should always try to help clear your plate or take your dirty dishes to the kitchen, at the very least. Wash some plates if you can, or just your own. “The host will push you away and protest, but you’re supposed to insist,” says Niza Wan Yahya. And if it is closer family relatives such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, definitely do offer to help out!
Whether it is spending too much time on your handphone or taking selfies the whole time, be mindful when you are a relative or guest in someone’s house. Yes, everyone is on holiday, but that doesn’t mean it is time for you to just rest, nap, or spend hours on Instagram. In 2015, Chef Wan famously wrote about his annoyance at his nephews and nieces who slept in and did not help out. One can understand his frustration – don’t leave the work to just a few women in the house and expect to be fed like kings!
Be merry and chat to different people (don’t monopolise the host too much). Keep things positive – not too much negative gossipping please! Do not overstay your welcome. When it is time to leave, even if the house is crowded with guests, it would be rude to leave without saying thank you and goodbye to the host.
Here’s to you being the perfect guest!