Brunei braces for ‘new normal’ Hari Raya festivities

Azlan Othman

As the Muslim community in the Sultanate gets ready for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the festive mood and excitement are seemingly quieter compared to the previous years following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival will fall either tomorrow or Monday subject to moon sighting today.

Despite a less joyous mood in the run-up to the festivities, Bruneians were seen at shopping centres yesterday shopping for festive food and drinks. Long queues were observed at several supermarket counters yesterday.

This will be the first time for Hari Raya revellers to celebrate the festival in a ‘new normal’ environment with safe distancing measures in place and only held with immediate family members.

“Waking up on Hari Raya morning clearly won’t be the same this year. Anyone who celebrates Hari Raya understands that the first day is always the most exciting. There won’t be the same sense of excitement as I put on my carefully picked baju kurung (always the best outfit on Day 1),” said Batrisya, a tertiary institution student.

Members of the public shop at The Mall in Gadong last night. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
People shop at a textile shop

“I will be heading to my grandmother’s house for kelupis (glutinous rice) and daging rendang, where we usually gather. However, this year, we will not have our usual morning-to-night marathon of house visits, where more Raya dishes and an endless assortment of kueh await,” she added.

“Bruneians have to accept this year’s Hari Raya is certainly going to be different. But the Hari Raya season is really all about the togetherness of family. This is what makes the holiday feel so special,” Batrisya said.

Yanti, a mother of three said while visiting extended relatives will not happen this year, the current pandemic has given her more time to spend with her immediate family in the lead up to Hari Raya.

“The time at home has meant that I break fast with my family every day of Ramadhan,” she said. “I am not involved with Hari Raya preparations although my friends have requested me to bake a cake for them like in the previous year. I am too busy with my new born baby.

“My family will still keep the festive spirit alive. There will still be an exchange of forgiveness, an important Hari Raya custom, although only through the gesture of greeting by placing the hand over the chest, smiling or nodding and avoiding any physical contacts as much as possible as stipulated by the Ministry of Health. Allowing only 20 family members to be together during the festivity, and no house visiting will not dampen the celebration mood this year,” Yanti said.

For Nil Salleh, a tailor whose business has dropped drastically this year due to the low demand, said, “I wholeheartedly agree to the decision to mark Raya only with family members by abiding to the rules, adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and no open house like in previous years.”