Hari raya in Kuching

I am terribly lucky this year as I had the chance to celebrate Hari Raya in my other home town – Kuching. You see, hari raya in Sarawak is an elaborate affair. It will go on for at least seven days. You can feel the air of festivities pervading all around within that week. That is one of the reasons why Sarawakians must have at least two pairs of the traditional baju Melayu or baju kurung. You hardly see Muslims Sarawakians go visiting in their jeans, slacks, normal shirts, blouses, skirts, or t-shirts. They invariably would be adorned in their resplendent traditional baju melayu, kurung, or kebaya – complete with samping and songkok. And it will be like that for the whole first seven days of Shawal. Interestingly even the normally recalcitrant and rebellious youths would also be proudly wearing their traditional dresses.

the family, 1st syawal 1430
the family, 1st syawal 1430

The food is really out of this world, especially the compulsory kek lapis Sarawak (Sarawak layered cakes).The cakes are intricately layered with various hues and colours. Wait till you hear their names – lapis India, lapis madu, masam manis, tikar mengkuang, even one called samping Tun Razak!
The clan in Kuching, 3rd syawal 1430
The clan in Kuching, 3rd syawal 1430

The famed layered cakes of Sarawak
The famed layered cakes of Sarawak

Now you can understand why my children really looking forward to celebrating Hari Raya with their grandma, uncles, aunties and cousins in Kuching. Sometimes I found great contrasting trends in the way the Sarawakians celebrating their Raya. On one hand you see them owning the latest telecommunication gadgetry, LCD and plasma TV, latest hairstyles (bleached, blondes, rebonded, you name it); on the other hand, the way they celebrate is still very much like how we did it way back in the sixties and seventies – open house in true meaning of the word -you can walk in to any house at any reasonable time, plenty of cakes and biscuits, children playing firecrackers and sparklers, and a lot of colourful bright lights adorning the houses. It is a real pity that we had to return to the drab jam packed smoke filled KL before the seventh day. Alas, good thing never lasts.

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