The Lighting Fiesta

HARI RAYA is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of Ramadhan, the fasting month. Although Muslims celebrate it differently in different parts of the world, it is a day that everyone
looks forward to. In Sarawak, we certainly have a different and unique way of celebrating this special day. While there are a few similarities in the Hari Raya practices such as going to the mosque in the morning, the Majlis Bertuntung is something different to look forward to in the Land of the Hornbills. In the Sarawakian Malay language bertuntung means the lighting of one‘s house compound. It has been practiced by the Muslim community in Sarawak since the colonial era.

The Majlis Bertuntung begins on the 27th day of Ramadhan and lasts until the 7th day of Syawal. Sarawakians would prepare ourselves for this unique tradition by setting up fairy lights, putting up kerosene lamps, fixing broken light bulbs and other necessary preparations. They would decorate the village streets and houses with lots of kerosene lamps and colourful decorative neon lights. Some would go as far as to make light decorations in the shape of a ketupat in their yard while others would make a huge gate out of the lights. In some parts of Sarawak,
neighbourhoods would hold Majlis Bertuntung competitions to award the best decorated house. The competition is aimed at promoting the bertuntung culture among locals and to attract tourists.

Siti Hajar Yusuf, 23, a resident of Kampung Tupong Ulu, Kuching said that every year, the neighbourhood would be ablaze in preparation for Hari Raya. Children in the neighbourhood would begin to play with fireworks and sparklers to raise the Hari Raya spirit higher. Siti also said that her parents would bring them to shop for lights during Ramadhan and as Hari Raya gets closer, she and her siblings would help put the lights up. The walls, concrete poles, gates and even the trees of her home would be lighted up with colourful and blinking fairy lights. Her family never gets tired of the tradition because it is something that they truly look forward to each year.

To amp up the spirit of Hari Raya, each year, the roads of the cities would be decorated with lights in shapes of ketupat and people in traditional Malay attire. Signs are put up with words wishing everyone a Selamat Hari Raya. From the food to preparations, the people of Sarawak definitely stick to their own traditions and will never let them die. Sarawak is diverse and unique in its people and traditions, and its harmonious community makes it even more special.

Hani-Lutfiby Hani Lutfi, 19, Sarawak

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