Second Raya during MCO: Appreciating the blessings in life

Traditionally, Hari Raya is regarded as a time of gathering for Muslims, who would open the doors of their homes to all people, regardless of religion, race, and background.

This year, however, many Malaysians may have to celebrate Hari Raya alone or away from home due to the ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO), enforced by the Malaysian Ministry of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Walking down memory lane during the years before the Covid-19 outbreak, we will reminisce the bittersweet memories that we might have taken things for granted, especially the memory of going back to our hometowns, or “balik kampung” during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration. The long drives and the traffic jams that the adults used to sigh and complain about, are now the things that we miss. With the interstate travel ban still in place, most likely till after Raya, many Malaysians are saddened at the thought of not being able to see their families, once again on this special day, after missing out on the celebration last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though it may seem disheartening at first, being by yourself on a special day like Raya may not be the worst thing in the world because there’s still a ton of little blessings in life that we can be thankful for, which includes your family, friends, loved ones, and your health. To get you in the mood for Raya, here are some exciting things you can do to recreate the Raya feel without balik kampung this time around (and still have a great time!):

1) Bond with your loved ones virtually

While the memories of visiting families, friends and relatives’ “open houses”, or even “Raya hopping” (visiting from door to door around the neighbourhood) are still fresh in our minds, the reality of the new norm requires us to prioritise the safety of ourselves and others around us in this pandemic. Thus, we can still maintain a close relationship with our loved ones virtually via video calls. This is the perfect moment to check up on our dear family members and friends. 

But with video conferencing calls pretty much becoming the norm in today’s new normal, it’s easy to run out of things to talk about. Switch it up with some new challenges or games to boost both interaction and the amusement factor. The most important aspect is to get everyone on the call involved so it doesn’t end up being a dull, “how are you doing?” catch up session.

Get your parents to teach you how to make their signature rendang or any other dish via video call. With the advent of technology, now you can cook side by side with them either through WhatsApp video, FaceTime, Google Meet, and more. And to make the mood a little bit more festive, decorate a ‘Raya Background’ so that when you are video calling, they can see your beautiful decorations.

2) Send a kad raya either physically or virtually 

Why don’t we reignite the old tradition of sending “kad raya” or Raya greeting cards, to our loved ones? Kad raya was once a  collectible item, along with “sampul raya'' or money envelope that was the Malay community’s yearly tradition during the Raya festivity. But with people being creative, kad raya now can be sent digitally using different platforms such as animation, apps or even photos.

3) Send good food and new clothes

It is a tradition for the first day of Raya, all members of the family to wear new pieces of clothes. Hence, gifting new clothes to your family members would be a very much appreciated and thoughtful gesture.

Treats are always welcome during a celebration! Fellow Muslims usually exchange kuih raya cookies, sweets, homemade food and gift baskets during this celebration. However, if the person you want to send it to is not nearby, one suggestion is to order the treats from their local area and get it delivered to them.

4) Cook up a storm with friends

What’s better than celebrating Raya with good food and good company? No Hari Raya is complete without the excellent cuisine. You can still find little ways to celebrate and still enjoy traditional delicacies without going to ‘Open Houses’. You can order deliveries and support small businesses who make delicious traditional food. Or you can take this time to practice your cooking skills as Raya is the perfect opportunity to take the initiative to learn to cook more sophisticated, staple Raya delicacies! Host a Raya lunch for a limited number of invitees (within MCO guidelines) while practicing social distancing where you and your friends can have a cook-off! Be it Raya recipes or baking cakes, it sure will bring you and your friends joy.

Alternatively, you can even bake goodies for friends in the same situation, and pay them a “drive through” visit to send them your baked goods.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

5) Plan a staycation with friends

If you are planning to take leave, why not plan a staycation at any nearby hotels and enjoy your break from the office with some friends who are in the same situation as you! If a staycation is too far-fetched an idea, go and do some fun outdoor activities instead like going to the park and walking around. Get a breather and enjoy some bonding fun times!

6) Play board games and traditional games

This celebration is the perfect time to bond with your loved ones over board games. Be it with your family or your friends, this activity is fun and enjoyable across all age groups. From traditional ones like Dam Haji and Congkak to the modern ones like UNO, Ludo or Monopoly.

7) Send e-Duit Raya

Instead of giving the traditional Duit Raya, this year try sending out e-Duit Raya. Your recipients will be able to receive the e-Duit Raya directly in their account instantly. Giving charity to the less fortunate is an important part of the festive season and you can also donate to your favourite organisations through this channel as well.

8) Relax and unwind to some good food and a movie marathon!

Self love goes a long way, and if devouring a jar of Kuih Raya cookies all by yourself helps you feel good, then why not? While doing that, rewatch the whole Harry Potter series or the Lord of the Rings trilogy while in bed in your pajamas, because you can! Raya is the best time to get that much needed rest from the hustle and bustle of life by just snuggling in bed.

Get into the Raya mood with some classic Malay Raya films like P. Ramlee movies and horror movies. You can also watch modern Malay movies like Istanbul Aku Datang to set the mood to travel in the future when the condition permits.

You can also unwind, but still keep yourself preoccupied with more chill activities like reading a book, painting or journaling. Use this rare opportunity for more therapeutic and creative activities. Who knows, you might discover a new side to yourself, this Raya?

Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

9) Do some self-reflection (Count the many little blessings in life)

Hari Raya is not only a time for celebration, but also reflection. This is the time to list down all our ups and downs, and blessings in life so far. While the situation has been tough, we are here now with your loved ones around us, whether physically or not. Take this time to make supplications and pray for your family members and loved ones to stay safe and blessed with the wonderful things in life.

Though it may seem uneventful to be spending Hari Raya by yourself, a little reflection helps put things into perspective, and will remind us that it’s not actually the worst situation to be in, and we should always count our blessings in life.

Whether you are spending Raya alone by circumstance or by choice, you can still have a wonderful time filled with joy and meaning. Make the most of all your circumstances in life, be it good or bad. Your future self will thank you for it.

Lastly, as a reminder to all Malaysians, please maintain social distancing and strict hygiene while celebrating Raya this year. With patience and perseverance, we can beat this virus together as a nation.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (in advance) from us at Perfect Livin!

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