Ramadan is the name given to the Muslim 1 month long fasting period. It is usually held during the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and is deem as one of the ‘five’ pillars’ of the religion by the Muslims.
During this particular month, the Muslims are to fast between sunrise and sunset where drinking and eating are prohibited. The prohibition extends to other pleasurable consumption such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and sexual relation as well. Only the sick and infant are excused from the fasting. Even young kids are taught to practice the fasting since they are young. The purpose of fasting is to remind the devotees of self-discipline and self-control. Theologically speaking, there is a number of 'mythical' things are said to happen during this month, for example those who have fasted are forgiven their sins on the last night of the month. Regardless how true of this belief, the 12 hours fast is always rewarded with a feasts after the evening prayer during which the marketplace where all the Ramadan bazaars are, is always crowed with people who have been hungry and thirsty for the whole day.
The 30 days month-long fasting during the Ramadan ends and celebrates with the Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Aidilfitri. There are two methods to determine the fall of Hari Raya Aidilfitri: following the sign of the new moon (Rukyah) or based on the astronomical calculation. (Falak). In Terengganu, Muslims adopted the first method and this is always done in Merang.
Besides spring cleaning, the house will be decorated with the lighting of oil lamps at the surrounding compound as to welcome the angels which is believed to be visiting during the seven days preceding the festival. So, the first day of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri always starts with prayer in the morning in mosque then the zakat giving, i.e. to donate money to the mosque as to support the poor and the mosque. This will followed by a visiting to the ancestors’ graves.
This celebration lasts for a month but the is concentrated in the first three days. During these few days, there will always be open-house as to welcome visitors from all races regardless whether you know the owner. Visitors will be served with different type of favorite dishes such as ketupat, beef rending and cookies.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri always bears with full meaning of thanks giving and forgiving. The Muslims offer their thanks to God and the elders meanwhile also request to be forgiven for all their wrong doing in the past. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is not only purely a religion celebration instead also to unite as a family with of love, understanding, blessings, forgiveness and also the spirit of harmonious among the races in the country.
Hari Raya Korban Aidil Adha
Hari Raya Korban Aidil Adha or more commonly called Hari Raya Haji, is the celebration that marks the end of pilgrimage rites in Mecca where Muslims from all over the world will gather and fulfill their fifth pillar of the Muslim faith. After the pilgrim, the men will be given Haji as the title in front of their name whereas Hajjah for women.
Hari Raya Haji falls on the 10th of the 12th month in Islamic lunar calendar which was the day where Adam and Hawa came from the heaven and made their trip to the earth before they met each other in Arafah. This celebration day will start with prayer in the morning followed by the sacrifices of sheep at the mosque. The Sacrifices are made to commemorate the prophet Abraham's test of faith by the Allah when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Today this sacrifices will then distributed among the poor and the relatives.
Hari Raya Haji is of little different from Hari Raya Aildifitri. It is normally quite and people celebrate by enjoying the feast with the family and it celebrates for one day.
Beach Festival or Water Festival
Terengganu is a state that has very close relationship with water. Because of the wide and clean sandy beach, water festival usually held in Batu Burok Beach in Kuala Terengganu. All kinds of events are organized during the festival, range from traditional games, cultural performance to exhibition and contests. It is always a good chance to have an overview of the traditional culture of Terengganu in the festival.
Games such as sepak takraw (very similar to volley ball but instead of hand, the foot is used to hit and transfer the rattan ball to other participants), gasing, kite flying etc are the usual agenda in this annually held event.
Apart from the games, food trying is another good reason that one shouldn’t miss this event. All kind of local delicacies are sold in the booths. Fun gets merrier if you are adventurous enough to try some of this food. Never judge from its appearance, you may be rewarded by some delicious food.
As part of the parcel for the festival, cultural performance are held during the celebration. Needless say, Silat is a routine and a must for this festival. Sometimes stage will be built for joget as well. So the Terengganu folks will ask you : berjoget ke? (do you go for ‘joget dancing?) The event is normally brought to the climax by contests organized for example kite making and gasing spinning contests are the usual events accomplishing the festival. Then everybody will go home with joget walk and smiling face.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is always reflected with lucky money in red envelope (ang-pow), mandarin oranges or tangerines, fire crackers, food and blessing words. This is one of the most important festivals for the Chinese community and it lasts for 15 days.
The festival starts with the new moon on the first day of Chinese lunar calendar. It usually begins with a reunion dinner in the eve. Traditionally every member of the family will attend and have the dinner together. It is a norm that the all kind of traditional and typical Chinese cuisine will be served on the family banquet table, symbolizing a fruitful year in the past and in the near future.
The first day of the Chinese New Year is the welcoming day for the Gods of heaven and earth. During this day, many people will take vegetarian food instead of meat as to ensure a happy, safe and long life. Visiting among friends and relatives is another usual thing to do throughout the whole 15 days.
The Chinese believe to start a day with positive thinking and saying, therefore it has become a practice especially during the Chinese New Year which means a new beginning, that everybody will avoid anger and negativity instead will always start the conversation with ‘Gong Xi, Gong Xi’ (congratulation) following by other cheerful positive words. All debts should be cleared and work should be done before the arrival of the new year as to symbolized a better, prosperous and easier year ahead. Not to forget is the dragon dance during the period which also bears the same meaning and purpose with the above.
Chap Goh Meh
Literally, it means the 15th night and is referred to the 15th night in the Chinese New Year. Initially it marks the end of the Chinese New Year but the Chinese always has symbolic meaning behind a practice.
In the ancient China, lantern festivals accompanied by poem guessing and reading sections were the main events during a Chap Goh Meh evening. The young ladies who were not allowed to hang on the street will be granted the permission to go out from the confines of their homes, dressed in their bejewelled best and walked in the street. They are normally accompanied by the fiercest looking aunts and servants. Many of the ardent gentlemen found their princess of charming during from looking on longingly at the passing parade under the moonlighting. And there begins their romance.
Instead of the lantern parade and guessing-answering activities, the highlight of the festival is the orange throwing ceremony. Usually after the family dinner, the local maidens will be in gang either with fellows or family go to the nearby river or sea and throw orange into the water orange with the wish that the suitor will approach her sooner. Meanwhile the gentlemen will row a boat and try to catch the ‘suitable’ orange.
Off course it is always for fun. Today there are local associations or clubs organized this ‘oranges throwing’ every year as one of the festivals for this celebration. Although it is not common in Terengganu, Chap Goh Meh here is still celebrating with dragon dance, prayers and family gathering.