Wan Zurainah Wan Mohamad, 49, and her husband Mohd Nasir Abd Rahman, 51, and their three children can’t travel back to the East Coast to celebrate Hari Raya with their loved ones.
Like all Malaysians, they will adhere to the ban on interstate travel under the movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“This is the first time in 21 years that we are spending Hari Raya away from our siblings and in-laws. It feels different celebrating Hari Raya in the city instead of the East Coast, ” says Wan Zurainah who is from Kuala Trengganu while her husband is from Kota Bharu.
Due to the pandemic, Malaysians have to embrace a new normal, and that includes the way we celebrate festivals with family members and friends. Just like Ramadan, Hari Raya will be unlike in past years.
Wan Zurainah is taking this in her stride and looking at the positive side of things.
“Although I feel sad, I am not going to let the MCO and Covid-19 pandemic dampen my Hari Raya spirit. Since I can’t go back for Hari Raya, I plan to bring the ‘kampung’ feel to my home. Hopefully, this will be one of the most memorable Hari Raya for my family, ” says Wan Zurainah, a senior manager at a telecommunications company in Petaling Jaya.
In the days leading to Hari Raya, Wan Zurainah’s home is bustling with activity. In the kitchen, she is scrubbing large aluminium pots which she uses to prepare her scrumptious Hari Raya must-haves like rendang, kuah kacang and ketupat nasi.
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Her three children Amira Delaila, 21, Mohammad Danish Hakim, 16, and Mohamad Danial Iman, 13, have been roped in to put up festive decorations In the living room and tiki torches in the garden.
A medley of Hari Raya songs like Sharifah Aini’s Selamat Hari Raya and Sudirman’s Balik Kampung fill the air, and adds to the festive mood.
“Later today, I have to blend the ingredients to make the rendang paste, which includes lemongrass, galangal, chillies, and onion. While there’s so much preparation for Hari Raya, I am grateful my husband and children are my angels in the kitchen, ” says Wan Zurainah with a warm smile.
On Hari Raya eve, Wan Zurainah will be cooking dishes for the festival on a wood-fire stove till the wee hours.
“Back in our kampung, my boys are the ones who source for branches and sprigs. They were happy to source for these items around our neighbourhood. Nasir will set up the bricks which are essential for the cook-out session.
“What I want to have is the smell of smoke from the firewood and firecrackers in my compound. It signifies the spirit of Aidilfitri for us.
“Even though I will be super exhausted with all the cooking, I don’t mind. I am making an extra effort for Hari Raya, ” she says.
Wan Zurainah will be serving her staple homemade Hari Raya dishes such as ketupat, beef rendang, chicken rendang and kuah kacang.
And if that’s not enough, she’s planning to take it up another level by making nasi dagang, a signature East Coast dish of coconut rice, fish curry and pickled cucumber and carrots.
But this time around, she’s cooking for her family of five and a bit extra to share with her neighbours.
She has also baked a few types of cookies for the festive season.
“Sharing food is part of our tradition. We are still celebrating Hari Raya, but this time around, it’s on a smaller scale.”
Another tradition Wan Zurainah is keeping is dressing her family up in the same colour theme.
This year, they have ordered their Hari Raya clothing online and chosen the colour maroon.
“Last year, our theme colour was green. We chose maroon because it symbolises vibrance and a festive feel. Since Hari Raya is just among family, I told my children they would be receiving their duit raya via online transfer, ” she says.
Amira appreciates her mother’s efforts to make this year’s Hari Raya memorable. But she admits she is already missing her fun get-together sessions with her cousins in Kelantan and Terengganu.
“Hari Raya in our kampung was always so fun. There would be about 40 family members in our family home, and everyone helped one another to cook, clean and handle the odds and ends.
“Even though the journey can take up to 13 hours, we have never complained. Each year, we’d always create a video documenting our balik kampung experience. This year, our video will document our Hari Raya preparation in the city, ” says Amira, a first-year chemistry student at Universiti Teknologi Mara in Arau, Perlis.
Although Hari Raya will be different, Wan Zurainah also sees the positive side of MCO.
“Staying home together has enabled me to bond with my children and spend quality time with my family. Amira is in university, and my two boys are in boarding school. If not for the MCO, I wouldn’t have been able to spend the holy month of Ramadan with them. And this Hari Raya, we will pray for blessings, forgiveness and abundance.”
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