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From Fast to Feast: Why You Can't Miss Hari Raya in Malaysia

Jul 06, 2016 07:15 AM EDT

Every traveler should one day experience the joy and hospitality-and food-of the Malaysian people during Hari Raya, which officially takes place this year on July 6th and 7th. Coming after Ramadan, a month of spiritual fasting, the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr is observed by Malaysians as Hari Raya Aidilfitri (also known as Hari Raya Puasa) and is treated as a time to share one's blessings with others.

"On Hari Raya-the first day after Ramadan-you are required to eat and celebrate with friends and family," says Joshua Zukas of Buffalo Tours. "It is known as 'the day of victory' and it's obligatory to share your success of completing the fasting month with family and friends."

In Malaysian culture, the practice known as rumah terbuka or "open house" is a common way of celebrating occasions such as Chinese New Year, Christmas and of course, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, writes Raja Abdul Razak in Great Penang. Rumah terbuka has families opening their doors to all visitors, who may eat of the food laid out for the Hari Raya celebration.

Many Muslim families will go out to pray at a mosque on the first day of Hari Raya, which makes it a great time for people watching. The families are typically dressed for the day in colorful traditional garments, even the children. (This writer recommends spending Hari Raya in Kota Kinabalu, where the festive garb of celebrants fits right in with the idyllic atmosphere of that small city.)

While the official observance of Hari Raya encompasses only two days, many Malaysians will take off work for a week, spending that time with their families in their home towns. Indeed, according to Wonderful Malaysia, "one month of Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations follow a month of fasting," and open houses and other festivities can take place throughout the month.

Governments, corporations, and local dignitaries commonly host their own open houses, often massive affairs with hundreds of guests and lots of free food. Check out this page for schedules of open house festivities this Hari Raya 2016.

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