Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hari Raya: Evenings and Days

Celebrations mark the end of the Muslim fasting month. The second day is when the fun and games begin.

Henna on the fingertips and decorating the back of the hand

Hari Raya literally means "Day of Celebration". However the celebrations, marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, continue for several days. Days are calculated as beginning at sunset (not midnight or dawn as in European traditions). I've already detailed evening 1 and day 1. This included some pretty serious stuff.  In this blog, I look at evening 2 and day 2, when the celebrations set in.

Evening 2: Parties

Nek Huz (purple) gives speech
Guests listening to speech
The evening was marked by a large party. Several members of a local family celebrated birthdays. These had fallen during Ramadan but it apparently seemed appropriate to hold off on the celebrations until the fasting was complete. The celebration followed a typical jemput makan (eating get-together) pattern. The wives/mothers had prepared many dishes, which were arranged on long tables. Nek Huz gave a speech of thanks.

Yet more guests sitting patiently with plastic plates in hand
Then men got up and served up food for themselves on plates, followed by women. Then the same process was repeated for deserts.

Ladies first for the photo
A few of the men
After that we joined Nek Su and Ayesha for a smaller jemput makan (eating get-together) with members of Nek Su's family. The arrangement was similar, but this was styled as a BBQ. I'm not sure if there were speeches beforehand. Aside from the Nek Su's relatives, my family and a visiting nurse joined the festivities. We took some photos. The women were enthusiastic, but most of the men had something far more important to do. Discussing the jukung racing.

Day 2 Jukung racing and soccer

End of jukung race
Grandfathers enjoying the race
The long-awaited jukung racing started on the morning of day 2. Jukung are local sailing boats. I will write about this in another blog on jukung.

Resting at half time

Shot goes wide and high
The soccer was the first time I have seen the game played on Home Island. Some local boys had marked out the field using white sand. Two teams played.

Enjoying the spectacle

Evening 3

Evening 3 was a unique experience for Home Islanders and also for my family. A group from Malaysia who are staying on Home Island for a couple of months were performing Nasheed. This is a kind of lyrical acapella chanting accompanied with percussion.

Click here to see it live.
Nasheed group

Trestle tables covered with food prepared by wives and mothers

Waiting with plastic plates

More guests for Nasheed

Day 3

I was busy with administrative work on Day 3, so missed both the second jukung race and the second soccer game.

Evening 4

Evening 4 was marked by another big show at the Cyclone Shelter. A community dinner had been organised by PKPK, a local group. We missed this as we had been lucky enough to be invited to Nek, Pak and Mak Den's for dinner. 

Nek Den, Nek Sofia and Daud

Day 4

More jukung racing this morning. It is the third of five races, culminating on Saturday with the largest class of jukung.
Much talking and preparation before the jukung race

Jukung heading out to the middle of the lagoon, where the winds will be stronger.

  Before the evening, it was the boys' turn to play soccer.
Boys' soccer: blue plays yellow

Money given by the shire is given to the participants in the jukung races and soccer games. The boys were no exception--each were given a small amount of cash.

Evening 5

We went to Nek Sofia's house and tried papaya with sambal, and rost chicken and duck. All very delicious.

Day 5

More jukung racing with an exciting end. The footage was filmed from the jetty as was preparing to board the ferry back to West Island, bringing my Hari Raya experience to an end.


I think it was Leach who observed that rituals tend to have periods that are apparently playful and apparently serious. A wedding ceremony is mostly serious where as a reception is mostly playful. Then within the serious period there are playful elements (at the ceremony there is a mock kerfuffle over the wedding rings) and within the playful period there are serious elements (at the reception there are tearful speeches).

From the sadness of the graveyard visit to the joy of Nasheed, this Hari Raya was a profound experience for me. Thank you to Home Islanders for sharing it with me.

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