The Holiday Hari Raya Aidilfitri, otherwise known as Eid ul-Fitr, is one of the most celebrated festivals in the world, especially in in Brunei. Although small, Brunei still observes Eid with the verve of much larger countries.
One of the most easily recognized structures in the country, the luxurious Sultan’s palace becomes the center of the activity each year as crowds of people wait patiently for the beginning of the Sultan’s public celebration. The festival is also celebrated by spending time in prayer at local mosques, family reunions, festive meals involving the sacrifice of goats, bulls and other animals.
Hari Rayad Aidilfirti falls on Thursday, August 8, 2013, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan on the Islamic Lunar Calendar.
The Culture of Brunei
The culture of Brunei is very similar to that of its neighbor Malaysia, this is because the ethnicity of Brunei is predominantly Malay. In Brunei, one of the strongest religious influences is from Islam, and overall the culture is more conservative than Malaysia. Officially it is an Islamic country under Shari’a law, and as a result Brunei’s public holidays primarily consist of Islamic festivals. Yet, despite this particular demographic, Brunei is still distinctly Asian, and is known to recognize and celebrate holidays from other cultures such as Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), International New Year’s Day, and Christmas Day.
Raya Puasa Brunei Style
Raya Puasa is an important Muslim festival that is celebrated in various regions all over the world. It officially marks the end of Ramadan, the month of ritualistic feasting, and the start of Syawal with the introduction of the New Moon. The preparations for this illustrious occasion commence at the same time that the holy month of Ramadan begins, and the result of these vast preparations is a sight that it is wonderful to behold. If you happen to find yourself on the streets of Brunei during this triumphant time, you will be in great luck. The jubilant ceremonies that define the festival are periods of striking color and life, families coming together, and friends enjoying each other’s company. It is an occasion when Muslims all over the world acknowledge and appreciate that Allah has brought them through the time of lack, into a time of plenty.
Muslim countries throughout the world have their own variations of the holiday, and therefore each of them offer a new and valuable experience. Cultural understandings are interjected into the food, the music, and the people, so that an Aidilfitri experience can be entirely different than that of another region. Examples of Muslim countries where Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a public holiday include Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, and of course, Brunei among many others.
In Brunei, Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2013 will begin on the 8th of August, but the celebrations will traditionally be influenced by when the moon is first actually sighted. This is the main reason why the date varies each year – lunar variations.
In Brunei, one of the most exciting events to occur on Aidilfitru is the opening of The Royal Palace Istana Nurul Iman. This will start on the second day of the celebrations, and locals and visitors wait eagerly for the chance to offer up their blissful “Happy Eid” greetings to Royal Family and His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
Although not everybody gets the chance to meet royalty, the atmosphere is still one of intense celebrations. Families from all over the world return home at this time to be with their loved ones. But more than family, each household will receive visitors. The wonderful, warm hospitability of the people of Brunei show most strongly during this jubilant time.
It is also customary for families to donate meat to charity, to help the less fortunate as a sign of gratitude to Allah for his goodness.
If you’re looking for an unusual sight, show up for the festival a day early. Typically, on the last day of Ramadan, participants let their hair down a bit, light off firecrackers and paper lanterns, and generally have a good time. It’s one of the world’s best parties, and due to religious reasons, everyone’s entirely sober! It’s a one of kind experience, one you should definitely check out if you’ve made the journey.