Another Malay Festival
Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Today is Hari Raya Haji. In the Qur’an, the day is celebrated on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar.
About 4,000 years ago, Abraham and Hagar, his wife, were blessed with a son in the valley of Mecca. They had been trying and praying for many years. Ishmael became his most prized possession.
In order to test Abrahams love, God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael. Satan placed many obstacles in his way, but, in the end, Abraham was about ready to cut Ishmaels throat. Just as he placed the knife, God said not to sacrifice his son but to slaughter a ram instead. Abraham was so grateful.
Suriani and Dzul went over to the kampung yesterday to help her parents get ready for the festivities. The house was cleaned and the cooking began. They prepared two types of beef curry, a tropical vegetable, and also a curried satay.
Although curry is a staple of the Malay world, it is not easy to prepare. Onions are diced, curry spice is made ready, the meat has to be chopped and other magical ingredients are added.
The coconut is harvested from the husk and squeezed with a cloth to get the milk out. The coconut meat is squeezed three times. The cow meat is then fried in oil with the spices. This mixture is added to the coconut milk and it is boiled down to a thick paste while stirring constantly.
If you want to dry the curry, you keep stirring until all of the liquid has evaporated leaving only a dry, brown flaky substance. However, care must be taken not to burn, stirring madly, it seems. There are usually three or more chefs all gabbing away so it is not as difficult as it seems. Suriani returned at around 2 A.M.
Day begins in the Islamic world at sunset and not at sunrise. Therefore, Friday night is really our Thursday night. There were many chants and sets in the suraw (a small mosque). The men get up at just before sunrise and go to the mosque, again, for prayers.
The animals are then brought in to be slaughtered. This is to remember Abrahams sacrifice of the ram. As I mentioned before, Malay custom is also added. One goat so a person has something to ride in heaven. A cow can accommodate seven people. Dzul has a goat. I guess I will just have to walk. Both species of bovine are dispatched and the meat is used for the poor.
When the men return from the mosque, everybody gathers together. Suriani has 10 siblings and some 30-odd nieces and nephews. I have lost count. The interesting fact in her family is that there are only five or six girls out of the 30. The place is a riot of disorganized disorder. All the boys are dressed in baju Malyeu (Malay dress). I wore brown silk pants and silk shirt. The shirt was cut down the front with a button to let some air in. On my head was a songkok, a long black hat.
The men sit down first to eat as is their custom and then the women eat with the children. Then curries are served over rice, the satay roasted and Kool Aid-type drinks are served. A good time is had by all.
...Life is good. . . . .