As you will be aware next Tuesday is a public holiday in Singapore for Hari Raya Haji but you might not be aware what it is all about. I sat down with a friend to have a chat about what this day means to him and how he’ll be celebrating.
Hari Raya Haji is the Malaysian and Indonesian name for Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice and is an important religious festival for Muslims globally. It is to honour the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son as an act of submission to Gods command. At the last moment God intervened to provide Ibrahim with a lamb to sacrifice instead of his first-born. Hari Raya Haji also marks the end of the annual holy pilgrimage the Hajj, hence the use of the word Haji.
What does this festival mean to you?
It’s all about sacrifice and a great bbq afterwards.
How will you be celebrating the festival this year?
My family and I will be travelling to my in-laws. The day will start with Eid prayers usually at your local mosque followed by a hearty breakfast with family. This year will be the first year my son will take part in the form of sacrificing a lamb. It will be a huge extended family get together and provides a good reflection on where we are in life.
How many people do you think will be getting together?
30-40 people, so many families that don’t get to see each other that many times a year.
That sounds like a special trip or is that how you would normally celebrate Eid?
We tend to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa or Eid al-Fitr in Singapore with our friends who are like our family away from home. For Eid we travel back to be with our family.
Is it OK for me to ask what you will be sacrificing this year?
Yes, we will sacrifice one goat or lamb per member of my family. Of which most will be given away to help feed the poor.
Coming from London do you see any differences in how Singaporean Muslims celebrate this festival?
From a sacrificial perspective and family get together it’s the same. The main differences are in style of dress and type of food eaten. There are still big family get togethers and giving to the poor.
As a non-Muslim is there anything that you could go along to experience this festival?
This is a family celebration so there won’t be any public events to attend, but reach out to your Muslim friends on how to participate especially as this is a time for giving.
So hopefully now you have a better insight into this important occasion and will appreciate your day off even more.
This is the first in a series of posts covering the major festivals (starting with the public holidays) celebrated in Singapore, so that we can all get a better understanding of the cultures around us.