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Wednesday, 28 June 2017 00:00

First Taste of Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Written by  Julie Yen Yu Chu / Malacca Translated by Lim Wen Xin

A group of teachers and students brightly dressed in traditional Malay costumes, welcomed students and parents with traditional Malay greeting custom. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]

Hari Raya Aidilfitri. which fell on June 25, 2017, is an important festival celebrated by the Muslims. A month prior to this festival is Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset for one month. With Malaysia being a multi-racial and multi-cultural country, Da Ai Kindergarten in Malacca specially held a series of celebrations and activities during the month for the children to get to know the culture and traditions of Muslims.


On the morning of June 28, 2017, a group of teachers and students stood at the entrance of Da Ai Kindergarten Malacca in their beautiful traditional Malay costumes while beating the ‘kompang’, the traditional Malay musical instrument, to welcome parents and students in traditional Malay customs, not forgetting to greet all guests with a beaming “Selamat Hari Raya!”, wishing everyone a happy Eid.

The students either put on their Sunday best or turned up in traditional Malay wear. As soon as they entered the school compound, they were attracted by the sounds of drums and unconventional greetings. Some younger kids, who were taken aback by the different schooling scene, either hugged their parents tightly or were afraid to move forward; whilst other more daring kids merrily walked past the welcoming team hand-in-hand with their parents. All teachers at the Kindergarten specially put on traditional Malay costumes to welcome the students in their classes. Some parents also wore similar clothing for the big occasion to celebrate Hari Raya with their children.

Experiencing the Malay culture

Early in the morning, Tan Tze Hao, dressed in traditional Malay costume, played the tambourine. He did not forget to share his experience of the celebration with his friends: “Last year, I followed my dad to his Malay friend’s home. They played the tambourine too! It means, ‘welcome and thank you for celebrating Hari Raya with us’. They gave me a green packet, too!”

“What’s a green packet?” asked Teo Juan Kit.

“A green packet is likened to a red packet! Only that a green packet is green, a red packet is red. Green packets are given to guests to thank them for visiting,” explained Tze Hao.

“Oh! At Chinese New Year, I would wish the guests ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ when they came to my home, then I got red packets. This is similar to how we celebrate the Chinese New Year!” exclaimed Juan Kit, understanding at last.

Past the welcoming team was the International Conference Room, where Teacher Lim Chiew Li first revised the significance of the month of Ramadan and Hari Raya to all the students. To help them remember better, she had arranged for the kids’ favourite “Upin and Ipin”—a Malay cartoon series—to be played, relaxingly and lively telling the tales of Ramadan and Hari Raya from a child’s point of view. The audience (the children) followed the plot and laughed heartily, singing along actively when “Balik Kampung”, “Selamat Hari Raya” and other Raya songs were played.

Unexpectedly, traditional Malay music was heard. A group of colourfully-dressed dancers moved on stage with the music, using props made of coconut shells. The audience was taken by surprise, and everyone danced joyfully. The atmosphere was merry.

First taste of Ramadan cuisines

Enthralled by the new and interesting dance, the kids requested to do the dance again. By the time it was over, everyone was exhausted and hungry for food. Since it was Hari Raya, it was a must for the kids to experience traditional Malay cuisine – the ketupat.

Eh? Where were the tables, chairs, forks and spoons? For the children to fully immerse themselves in the Malay dining etiquette, all students and teachers sat on straw mats and attempted to eat using their hands.

As soon as they saw the food, the kids could not wait to smell them and discuss about them amongst themselves. The teachers explained each of the dishes and the way to consume them, before they demonstrated the right way to wash their hands and to eat using their hands. Six-year-old How Jia Wen picked up the skill immediately, munching away deliciously, while saying, “This rice is sticky and sweet, yummy!” She went on to point out that one could only eat with their right hand, never with the left.

“The left hand is dirty so we always use the right hand for feeding. Just like in Upin & Ipin’s clip, we use our right hand to eat. Also, before we begin, we must first drink a mouthful of water, then we eat a prune. Only after that can we start to dine,” explained Chen Meng Quan. Both students practised what they had learnt from their teacher and the informative clip.

On the other side, the four-year-old children habitually touched everything with their hands after washing despite being reminded not to do so. Hence, before the meal, some had cleansed their hands for a few times, whilst others struggled with the food, unlike the older girls and boys who handled it easily. Kerk Le Xuan commented, “To eat using a spoon is easier. Our hands become dirty and sticky when we use our hands to eat.”

“The Chinese use spoons but the Malays use their hands. We are here to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, so we adopt their dining etiquette,” the six year-old Meng Quan voiced.

Teacher Chua Kwi Siang, who was standing by the side, noticed the kids cautiously scooping the food using their thumbs and index fingers. She then stepped up to demonstrate how to scoop the food using one’s five fingers and then feed it into one’s mouth. Meng Quan instantly tried it and said, “Yes, this is much easier.” Koh Zon Shyuan and How Jia Wen, who witnessed it, shook their heads pointing out that they did not want to dirty all their fingers. It was harder to manage the rice after it absorbed all the sauce, but most kids enjoyed the merry atmosphere and were determined to overcome the obstacle.

Lim Jia You pulled his face out of the blue and spit out the food, complaining, “Teacher, I don’t like this. This tastes horrible.” A closer look explained it all—it was tempe, a commonly used ingredient in Malay cooking. The smell of fermented yellow beans was too pungent for him, a first timer, even though the teacher encouraged him to give it a go again, he refused adamantly. The children seemed to really enjoy the ketupat, devouring it even without sauces or vegetables.

Interesting childhood games

In the afternoon, the children changed into sports attire to experience 11 stages of stage-clearing games, including congkak, throwing sand packs, pulling coconut fronds, sepak takraw (kick volleyball), hopscotch, spinning tops, playing marbles, playing Batu Seremban, soda bottle contest, catching people single-footed and walking on coconut shells. Most equipment used were made from easily obtained natural materials. Every stage was guarded by Loving Mothers and Sisters.

“Yah! It’s my turn. Look, my ‘house’ gained lots of marbles,” expressed Kang Zhi Yuan expressively, laughing heartily one minute and sobbing the next, emotions rising and falling with the congkak game. In the end, he cheered for his own victory, and played till he was unable to stop.

On the other side, the students were busily using their heads, hands and legs to hold the rattan ball (sepak takraw) so that it would not fall. Further in front, another group of kids was joyously throwing sand packs and playing hopscotch. Intense screaming came from the classrooms where the two groups of kids used sand packs as balls to play a “you-throw-I-avoid” game. In the dining hall, children were trying to spin tops, but only a handful were successful. Not far away, another group attempted to walk on coconut shells, the semi-spheres made the kids lose their balance. Thus, many fell as if they were walking on high balancing beams. Only Loo Zhen Hong succeeded to walk on the coconut shells easily to complete the assignment. He said, “They are round so it was not easy to step on them, but once you are up, it felt like a foot massage, very comfortable, so I could walk very quickly.”

Another group of children were lying in pairs on the ground trying to attack each other’s ball. Amongst them, Hau Yu Xuan, who enjoyed herself thoroughly, was not upset about not hitting her opponent’s ball. Instead she laughed boisterously: “The ball is too tiny, it was not easy to hit it as it rolled everywhere and we had to chase after it, what fun!”

Amongst these stage-games, pulling coconut fronds was the most well-received. It did not matter if one was the passenger or the puller, everyone had a huge satisfying smile on their faces. When five-year-old Yap Meng Hou sat on the coconut frond, he felt the fun of being a passenger: “It is my first time sitting on a coconut frond being pulled by someone else. This is fun! Upin & Ipin played this too! When I go home, I will get my dad and mum to play this together.” Two classes of six-year-olds got their class teachers, Koh Siew Tin and Sor Hui Min to join in the fun. They blissfully enjoyed the rare service (being pulled) the kids offered, and the latter were happy to do their best.

When Teacher Siew Tin led her kids to each level, she practised the Malay way of greeting to greet the Loving Mothers, and explained to the children that using two hands to gently hold the other person’s hands, then pull the hands to one’s chest signifies: “I am greeting you from the bottom of my heart.” The children had the opportunity to learn new customs in the midst of playing games.

During this festive season, the Kindergarten designed a series of activities for the occasion so the children could experience and explore, first hand, the Islamic culture through dances, songs, dining, and games. This was a lesson without books or regular teaching schemes, where the children learnt by immersing themselves fully in exploring and feeling the different culture.

 

 

The children at Da Ai Kindergarten Malacca in traditional costumes celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]   Teacher Lim Chiew Li explained the significance of Ramadan month and Hari Raya celebration to all children at Da Ai Kindergarten Malacca. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]

The children at Da Ai Kindergarten Malacca in traditional costumes celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
Teacher Lim Chiew Li explained the significance of Ramadan month and Hari Raya celebration to all children at Da Ai Kindergarten Malacca. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]
 
Photo shows a group of dancers moving gracefully to the traditional Malay music. The atmosphere was immediately filled with thick Malay flavour. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]   All teachers and students sat on straw mats and attempted to dine with their hands, experiencing first-hand Malay dining etiquette and custom. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]

Photo shows a group of dancers moving gracefully to the traditional Malay music. The atmosphere was immediately filled with thick Malay flavour. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
All teachers and students sat on straw mats and attempted to dine with their hands, experiencing first-hand Malay dining etiquette and custom. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]
 
How Jia Wen and Kerk Le Xuan (1st right) stared at Chen Meng Quan (1st left) eating with his five fingers. Although it was easier, both girls insisted to dine only with their thumbs and index fingers, refusing to dirty their hands. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]   The five-year-old Yap Meng Hou (2nd right) sat on a coconut frond for the first time, immersing himself in the joy of being pulled by his companions and laughing heartily. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]

How Jia Wen and Kerk Le Xuan (1st right) stared at Chen Meng Quan (1st left) eating with his five fingers. Although it was easier, both girls insisted to dine only with their thumbs and index fingers, refusing to dirty their hands. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
The five-year-old Yap Meng Hou (2nd right) sat on a coconut frond for the first time, immersing himself in the joy of being pulled by his companions and laughing heartily. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]