Happy Hari Raya!

Today is Hari Raya Puasa, the end Ramadan, which signifies the end of a long month of daytime fasting for Muslims around the world. “Hari Raya” means “the great day of rejoicing” in Malay, and “Puasa” translates to “fasting” (this holiday is more commonly known elsewhere as Eid al-Fitr, its Arabic name). About 15 percent of Singapore’s population is Muslim, and most of them are Malay — and since Singapore allocates one public holiday for each of the major religious groups in the country, everyone has a day off for Hari Raya. This allows Singapore’s Muslim families to go to the mosques and then celebrate in the afternoon with enormous feasts.

If you want to see the great fanfare leading up to this, it is worth a trip to Geylang Serai, one of the oldest Malay settlements in Singapore. The streets are decked out with celebratory lights …


… and there is an enormous market set up under great white tents.


This market, known as Geylang Serai Bazaar, runs every evening for the entire month of Ramadan. It explodes with life after sundown with families coming to break their fasts. Rows and rows of food stalls sell fried foods and other goodies.


All of the food is halal, which means that its consumption is permissible under Islamic law (the most significant requirement is the lambs and chickens being served have been killed using a religiously-overseen method of slaughter).

Many families purchase new clothes to wear on Hari Raya Puasa, so this market has rows and rows of stalls where shoppers can buy a jubah (a long loose dress), a baju kurung (a more fitted long dress), a songkok (cap) …


… or a new pair of fancy shoes:


The Gaylang Serai Bazaar also offers everything from carpets to jewelry to shiny knick-knacks for the home:


And there are also an inexplicable number of claw machines (none of which, to my knowledge, have anything to do with Hari Raya):


It is also common for women to have their hands decorated with henna for Hari Raya in Singapore (an interesting overlap of an Indian custom onto a primarily Malay festival), so there are many stalls with artists plying this trade.


If you want something that looks like a real tattoo and lasts longer than henna, you can opt for jagua (a tattoo dye made from fruit of the genipa americana plant). I had two pieces done at Wendy Peaches Henna, one on my wrist …


… and one on my back:


Selamat Hari Raya!

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