Coming into the second week of Eid, reality slowly resurfaces before myself. There’s a trace of melancholy as I recall all the food and the soft drinks that I had ruefully binged on while I was annually visiting the houses of my close relatives and my best mates.
During the days when I’d visited my cousins’ houses, feelings of nostalgia touched me a few times during the week. The radio blaring traditional hari raya tunes from famous Malaysian artists sent me back to my childhood. The memories gently haunting me and reminding me that it’s never going to be the same.
In comparison to the days when we weren’t self-reliant on today’s technology, it seemed as though slowly and surely, there are things that we don’t practice today that we exuberantly did a decade or two ago.
Let’s take a peep at some of these things that we’ve lost over the years:
Hari Raya cards
The most prominent loss over the course of two decades is the sending of hari raya cards. Much like giving birthday cards, or congratulatory cards, people used to prepare and send hari raya cards annually before the calendar hit Shawwal. Arriving at a mailbox just before or even during Eid, the cards would always light up the face of the receiver.
Soon those cards would be hanging proudly on the walls of the receiver’s house.
Unfortunately, we rarely practice this custom anymore. Pointing our fingers to the quick rise in technology with the Internet and mobile phones, we now resort to sending digital heartfelt Eid messages. Alas, it surely isn’t the same as receiving a personalized card. It can never measure up to the effort of handwritten personal messages and sending them to the post office.
Not to be confused with the actual food, I refer to the decorations of ketupat swaying beautifully around the house. To find someone who is able to weave a ketupat is also a rarity. It’s sad to think that this tradition of weaving may be completely lost some day. Thankfully, you can enjoy watching videos on the Internet from people who are eager to preserve this tradition. Yet, when it comes to decorating houses with these ketupats, the scene is as rare as one you would find in households with hari raya cards – which is fairly unfortunate.
Along with fairy lights blinking colourfully around the exterior of houses, outlining the perimeter of a house, will be torches resembling tiki lamps. Using kerosene oil, they burn slowly and steadily and will last for quite a long time into the bustling night of a socially-energized village. However, in recent times, this tradition has been fading away and replaced more predominantly with just fairy lights.
Meriam buluh, also known as bamboo cannons in English, are home-made firecrackers which is quite popular during Eid al-Fitri in South East Asia. It is not necessarily a lost tradition, but in recent times, you won’t be able to see much of these in urban areas. However, in the more rural regions, you will probably be able to hear the sounds of explosions ripping through the night air from these bamboo cannons. Unfortunately, bamboo cannons are significantly more dangerous than the normal market fireworks. As parents are generally wary of their children’s safety, they steer the youths forcefully away from playing with bamboo cannons.
In the sweltering afternoons of the first week of Shawwal, you will at times encounter random children, dragging their bikes around the local neighbourhood. Your doorbell rings and they occupy your house, picking out the best raya cakes you offer. By the end of the visit, these children are eager to collect envelopes with money inside. I believe there are less of these youngsters going around town because of a few reasons: People are somewhat skeptical of the genuineness and intentions of these visits. Then, there are the parents that are heavily concerned about their children’s well-being, especially for those that go around the neighbourhood without chaperones. Thus, gone are the days where children are in it for the pureness of camaraderie and adventure.
To think that these traditions are losing its significance in our culture is quite regretful. A form of identity that we will soon lose and be looked upon as just a nostalgic memory. It does make one wonder what we will change in the next ten, twenty years from now.