Brunei will be celebrating the first day of Hari Raya on Thursday (June 6, 2019).
Over the past few weeks, I got in touch with some of Neue’s friends to talk about what they missed most during this festive season (i.e. something that used to be there but is no longer there) and also what they were looking forward to.
As it turned out, everyone has their own way of explaining what Hari Raya means to them.
Here’s what they had to say:
Handwritten Greeting Cards
“I truly do miss the sending of handwritten ‘Kad Raya’ … it’s indeed a lost art! The feeling of receiving a ‘Kad Raya’ is just beyond words. It’d be nice to see handwritten greeting cards making a comeback!”
This was said by Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad (see photo below, 2nd from left), one of Brunei Darussalam’s youngest Legislative Council members, who was appointed a seat under the category of ‘People Who Have Achieved Distinction’ in 2017.
“It’s definitely a niche now,” he said, adding that he hopes to receive some handwritten greeting cards this year.
This same sentiment was shared by Nadia Othman. “When I was younger, I always … ALWAYS … sent out Hari Raya greeting cards to my close friends as well as my long distance friends. To be honest, I am still doing that! But for the past few years, I haven’t received any! I remember the feeling of receiving cards. I’d hang it up and decorate it and paste them all around my mother’s living room.”
Shopping For Fireworks
For Nabillah, a professional makeup artist, what she missed the most was the ease of being able to buy fireworks easily in Brunei.
“Back then, parents taking their children shopping for fireworks was more like a ‘reward’ for behaving during the day. After sungkai, my dad would take us to a store and we were allowed to buy any ‘bunga api’ (fireworks),” she said. “We were, of course, given a budget of 5 dollars!”
The loud, scary ones were the most favoured choice by her older siblings.
As for her, she preferred to buy bright, colourful ones!
“But it’s illegal in Brunei now. But I do wish I could share the same experience with my future kids,” she added.
Nadia jokingly said that back in the day, her household would be one of those in the neighbourhood that would waste their $$$ on fireworks!
“Admittedly, finding fireworks in Brunei is quite hard these days,” she said, adding that she now has her own little family – two kids who are growing up so fast!
“Nowadays, the one thing that I look forward to Raya is to have our very own family tradition, as well as keeping the existing traditions practised by both sides of the family alive. I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends, especially those long distant ones.”
Bash Harry, a beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogger, told Neue that she missed playing with firecrackers at night when her family gets home.
“There would be a candle on the steps …” she recalled fondly. “It was indeed a huge part of my childhood tradition that I wish we still did.” (Check out an old Raya family photo that Bash provided below. According to her, it was taken OVER A DECADE ago! How time flies!)
When asked what she looked forward to every Raya, she said: “I love getting dolled up and meeting friends and family. Not only do we chat about what’s going on, we’re also able to take lots of pictures!”
Azrol Azmi, a talented Brunei photographer, said he too missed the good ol’ days of playing fireworks in Brunei. “Of course, I’m not talking about the dangerous explosive ones! Just the ones that are small and compact like ‘badil kuching’!” (Check out his Raya family photo below!)
When asked what he missed most about Raya, Shaikh Fadilah of Dilcoffeetrail said: “It would have to be my mom’s cooking on the first day. ‘Daging rendang’, ‘sayur lodeh & ketupat’, ‘sambal pengantin’ … these were her signature dishes! Since she is no longer around, my sisters will try to prepare these dishes.” (Check out his family photo below!)
Shaikh Fadilah, who is synonymous with the word ‘coffee’ in Brunei social circles, said he’s looking forward to hosting open houses.
“Why? Because I try to cater to EVERYONE – including serving vegetarian and gluten-free cakes so that EVERYONE can enjoy the gathering. And of course, coffee brewing will be there too.”
According to him, the idea of open houses is one that’s deeply stemmed in culture and tradition. “After all, it gives people the opportunity to catch up and rekindle ties with family and friends,” he said.
Receiving ‘Duit Raya’
For Imelda Groves, it’s all about the “duit raya” (money packets).
“Something that I miss most about Hari Raya is receiving ‘duit raya’ from other people. After all, these money packets are only for the kids! They are hardly given to those working and who are considered grown-ups,” the mother of 2 said. (Check out her photo below!)
“Oh! I do also miss the ‘langgar’ (spontaneous) kinda visits … You know, those no-need-to-call-to-visit-an-open-house-kinda Raya!” Imelda added.
The same goes for Neue’s local friend, Da’ Food Enthusiast. “If I’m being perfectly honest, the thing that I miss most about Raya … now that I’m a grown adult, is the Raya packets,” he said.
“And speaking as a foodie, of course it’s ALWAYS about the food!” Da’ Food Enthusiast added.
According to him, during this time of the year, people can really be so creative. “I’m sure you can remember the time when rainbow-coloured cakes and biscuits were all the rage!”
DJ Enny shared the same sentiments. According to her, the smell of cakes and biscuits baking in the oven is missing these days. “Nowadays, many would just buy those ready-made ones!” (Photo below shows her family during a Raya visit in Sungai Tujoh back in 2018.)
Enny, who is known as a “super mom” in Brunei’s social circles, said she misses the days when kids would randomly show up at your door (most of the time, unannounced)!
“Receiving Hari Raya cards from the postman and the sound of firecrackers … these are other things that I truly miss about how Hari Raya used to be in the past,” she added.
A highlight of Hari Raya that Enny is looking forward to would be the long road trips across the country to visit family and friends.
“Oh! And Hari Raya songs being played over the radio and TV … that’s when you know it’s truly Raya,” she quipped.
For Imelda, it would be a blessing if she was able to have a “complete set” family gathering, where they would all be in a single group photo.
For Dirah Wong, Hari Raya is all about people getting together and asking for forgiveness.
Neue also got in touch with Saifulizam Zamhor, the founder of Visual Pro.
When asked what he missed most during Raya, he said: “The grandparents. Last time, all the cousins would gather at the grandparents’ residence. But now, that is no longer the case. I am, however, looking forward to meeting as many relatives as possible this year.”
The same goes for Siti Nabilah Izzati binti Haji Metussin, who was randomly selected as the winner of a lucky draw featured in one of Neue’s past articles – “Must-Try Sungkai Buffets In Brunei”. (Check out her family photo below!)
“One thing that I always miss during Raya that used to be there but is no longer there is my late grandparents,” she said.
“Family is very important to me. My grandparents have always been the reason we come back for Raya and the void can really be felt now that they’re gone,” she added.
Haji Azlan Haji Aliakbar, a sales consultant from NBT Brunei Sdn Bhd, who is a father himself said in the old days, kids would visits various houses in the neighbourhood.
“They’d come in groups and we’d give them green money packets (duit raya),” he said.
According to him, these days, people would normally wait to be formally invited to come over before they drop by an open house.
“Unless you’re really close relatives, then I guess you could drop by unannounced,” he added.
Nabeela Fadzil (@lipstickmyname), a fashion enthusiast, said she’s looking forward to her grandmother’s laksa this Raya.
“We’ll also be queuing up to salam my grandmother on the first day of Raya,” she said.
Other things that she’s excited for this festive season is wearing Raya clothes and meeting family and friends. (Check out her photo family photo below!)
Fatin Muzini, a part-time singer, told Neue that each Raya, she looks forward to REALLY GOOD kuih! (Check out her photo below!)
Let’s Live In The Moment
One of Neue’s writers, Khal B.Yaakub, meanwhile, had some deep thoughts to share.
When asked what she missed most during Raya, Khal said: “Basically, the sense of value in the togetherness of it all. Back then, we gathered to hang out … It was more of the sincerity in the ‘how-are-yous?’.
“However, these days, because we have that ever present ‘digital connection’, we’re more inclined to skip through the ‘how-are-yous’.
“Somehow, the focus has now shifted to ‘what’s good with your life?’
“In some cases, it’s good in the sense of catching up.
“In others, it becomes a competition, and somewhere in that competition, we forget to appreciate the ‘moments’.”
When asked to elaborate further on this, Khal said: “Take childhood Eid photos, for instance. I see laughter, I see people ‘salaming’ (greeting one another) and celebrating togetherness across generational boundaries.
“But if you were to compare the photos of the yesteryears to the ones in modern times, I’m sure that you’ll notice that there’s ‘something missing’.
“The photos of today seem to lack the sentiment that automatically paints the stories … the ‘makings of memories’,” she said, adding that people should make full use of this festive time to forgive, strengthen ties with one another.
“After all, Raya is not only a season for celebrations, but also a season for forgiveness, not just in each other, but in ourselves too, like a collective celebration to conclude the self-reflective month of Ramadhan,” she added.
Got Something To Say? Let’s Hear It!
What about you? What do YOU miss most during Raya? What are YOU looking forward to this Raya?
From all of us here at Neue, we would like to take this opportunity to wish all our Muslim friends and their families ‘Selamat Hari Raya’.
*All photos published were provided by those interviewed by Neue.