As the month of Ramadhan comes to a close, it is time for all Malaysians to embrace a favourite local tradition: Hari Raya open houses.
During the month of Syawal (also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa), our Muslim brothers and sisters will open the doors of their homes to welcome everyone from all walks of life to join in the celebrations. A Hari Raya Open House brings together people regardless of their religion, race and social background.
However, before you go Open House visiting, it is very important for you to observe the proper etiquette. Take a look at some of the Do’s and Don’ts we have listed below so that you don’t offend your Muslim friends, intentionally or unintentionally:
✓ DO: Knock and greet before you enter someone’s house
Even though it is an Open House and the idea of it is to welcome guests, it doesn’t necessary mean that you can enter someone’s home as you please. It is only polite to knock on the door – or call out if it is open – to alert the host of your presence so that they can receive you. Usually, our Muslim friends will greet you by offering you one or both his hands, and then grasping your hand before bringing his hands back to his chest, to mean “I greet your from my heart”.
But of course, a normal handshake or a fist bump will also do lah.
✘ DON’T: Dress too overly provocative
If you’re looking forward to breaking out that super short hot pants you purchased during the mega sale or that unnecessary obscene T-shirt you bought in Bangkok, a Hari Raya Open House is not the time to do it. What you wear to an Open House is very important, as overly sexy or provocative outfits – ripped jeans, mini skirts, sleeveless shirts and mini dresses, among other things – are a taboo.
Although the host might not say anything, they might view it as a sign of disrespect. So, do remember to dress up modestly when you go visiting.
✓ DO: Take off your shoes before entering the house
Living in an Asian country, it is an unspoken rule to always remove your shoes before stepping into someone's house as a sign of respect to the host and his home. This is exceptionally true during a Hari Raya Open House.
You see, in some homes, it is not unusual to find that the living room is also a place where they conduct their prayers, or a space where they berbuka puasa
. These activities require a clean space; therefore, this is why you should remove your shoes before stepping into the house.
✘ DON’T: Present anything that might offend your friends
It is not compulsory to bring gifts or buah tangan
while visiting, but if you insist on presenting a gift, absolutely DO NOT present anything black to the host during an Open House! Gifts that are black in colour – angpau
s, greeting cards, clothing, etc. – are considered inauspicious and highly offensive.
Things you should also avoid giving: alcohol, perfume with alcohol, products with pigskin, and food items that contain pork, among other things.
✓ DO: Grab something to eat
You might have a little too much to eat at the previous Open House, but you should still grab a little something to eat. That is because according to Malay customs, it is considered rude to make your guest feel unwelcome (or unfed, to a certain extent).
Therefore, to eat just a slice of cake or some cookies will, in a way, fulfill the host’s sense of duty to feed his/her guest. If you want to refuse food, gently and politely touch the edge of the plate or the food tray.
✘ DON’T: Use your left hand to handle food items
This might sound a little trivial, but you should avoid using your left hand to handle food items as it is deemed disrespectful. That is because in Malay customs, the left hand is reserved for bathroom-related activities, so it is considered unhygienic to eat with your left hand.
We know this takes a lot of getting use to, but you do not want every one to stare at you in disgust, do you?
✓ DO: Keep your smartphones and tablets in your pockets and bags
We live in the world where we are slaves to our smart gadgets, but when you are at a Hari Raya Open House, try not to spend every single minute you are there staring at that small 5.5-inch screen.
An Open House is the perfect time for you to sit down and catch up with your friends, and we are pretty sure they will not be pleased if you spend more time chatting with your online friends than with them. So, put down that phone and mingle around. That Facebook status and Instagram post can wait.
✘ DON'T: Overstay your welcome
It may have been years since you last saw your friend Abdullah and an Open House seems like the perfect time for you to sit down and catch up, but it is not advisable to loiter around and overstay your welcome - even if the host insists you to.
Remember, it's a Hari Raya Open House; you can expect a lot of guests coming and going. It is absolutely fine to stay for two to three hours, but try not to hang around from breakfast all the way until dinner, alright?
Now that you know your do's and don'ts, have an awesome Raya celebrations ahead, guys and girls!