Thursday, 14 June 2018 marks the last day of Ramadan month this yearwhich is also my second year experiencing Ramadan in the Netherlands, as a student. For most Indonesians (including me), Ramadan is not only associated with one-month period of fasting. Besides serving spiritual purposes, Ramadan is always a good chance to bring closer families and friends. Let me tell you some vivid memories of mine about Ramadan and Idul fitri (or Eid-al-Fitr aka Lebaran) back home.
The days during ramadan always start earlier than usual. When I was a kid, either Ibu (my mom) or Bapak (my dad) always woke me up for sahur (or suhoor aka pre-dawn meals). Believe me, it would take a while for them to get me moved from my bed. My mom was already busy in the kitchen, preparing hot sweet tea and the meals (most of the time were leftovers meals from last night iftar). We would then ate together, sometimes while watching TV programs for sahur time.
This sahur routine is however what I miss the most from my family. If we can break the fast (iftar) together with friends or colleagues, little chance that we can have sahur together with them, unless we live with them. When I was living on my own, I and some friends used to make a wake-up call so that we did not miss the time. It’s always a very quick phone call, maybe less than ten seconds, as soon as we heard the voice on the other line, done. Haha.
The sound of my mom stirring the tea, the little chit chat during sahur, my sister or dad snatching TV remote to switch to their favorite show, the dark morning when we went to the mosque for subuh (pre-dawn) praying, or the quick “shouting” wake up call. These little random things that I used to take for granted were what I remember vividly nowadays.
In my childhood, kids were encouraged to go for an afternoon lesson for Quran and Islam in the nearest mosque. This is how most Indonesian kids learnt to read Arabic and recite Quran. As a kid, me and my friends were always so enthusiastic to go for the lesson (especially during Ramadan) because we had activities and thus did not really have time to feel hungry or thirsty. We usually learnt to recite Quran one by one with a mentor, then we had the whole afternoon to play, yeay. We were not that enthusiastic with learning, we were just kids, really. What we cared most was probably the chance to play with friends and some nice treats for breaking the fast.
Later when I was older, I discovered the term “ngabuburit” which literally means waiting time for breaking the fast (iftar). Ngabuburit activities evolved as I grew up, from having afternoon Quran lesson (and playing around), sitting in a restaurant or “warung” with friends (which was the most popular option and I did a lot with my college friends and colleagues from work), or just simply sitting on my desk finishing the works (boring!). The bottom-line is that anything you could do with friends and families are always the best.
The delicacies: Nastar, Putri Salju, Kastengels
Lebaran would probably be best compared with Christmas in the Western world. These are the days when people come back home and reunite with family and friends. Families would prepare their best to serve the most scrumptious dishes and delicacies they could afford.
There were cookies that can never be absent during Lebaran day, or our Lebaran won’t be complete. These include Nastar, Putri salju (snow white?), kastengels, along with other cookies that would be a very long list if I mention all. We used to buy them at the store or order at my mom’s colleagues who were excellent at baking cookies. The fact why we never really made them was not without a reason: my mom was not a good baker. The only time she baked a cake was for my sister’s 7th or 8th birthday and was an epic failure. Haha.
Since the last few years, we started to learn baking these cookies (which I couldn’t recall why). Lebaran was probably the only occasion we baked cookies. So, if you can imagine three amateurs making a mess in the kitchen, that’s us. The baking itself was never easy. We often argued over the recipe, either with the ingredients or measurement. Thus, if we could yield a tray of well-baked cookies, that’s an achievement.
I never knew how these cookies could end up as obligatory delicacies for Lebaran. I’m pretty sure these were legacies of the Dutch colonies, as I don’t think Indonesian (especially Javanese) really have baking culture. But anyway, our Lebaran day is never complete without these delicacies. Hail to those who invented the recipes, and thanks to the people in the blogosphere who are kind enough to share the recipes. Somehow I learnt to bake while in the Netherlands and managed to successfully make the three of them this year, yeay.
Just two or three days (many also do it a week ahead) before the big day, people are flocking back to their hometown. The celebration usually starts a day before the big day, as it is also the last day of Ramadan. In the morning of last day of Ramadan, every household is always busy with cooking the big meals. My mom would buy the woven palm leaves to wrap the rice for cooking “ketupat” (rice cake). In the past, some of my neighbours even wove the leaves themselves, which I consider as art skill not everyone could do. We would then eat ketupat with any other dishes for the next few days.
In my parents’ house, we always serve “kupat tahu” for the last day of iftar. Kupat tahu is a vegetarian dish consisting of rice cakes (kupat), fried tofu (tahu), and some vegies topped with crushed peanut and sweet savory sauce. We can always adjust the spicy level with the use of fresh chili. It is a much lighter meal than all other meat dishes cooked in coconut milk (opor, gule, rendang, etc). I would always be in charge in assembling the ingredients (easy peasy), that I always remembered how many chillies my dad and sister wanted. My mom usually prepared it on her own a bit later. I never knew how kupat tahu could end up as a closing dish of Ramadan in my family. It’s just a very simple street food, really.
On the big day, we’re awake early in the morning for the Ied prayer. Ied prayer is what I always wait for. It kind of culminates and wrap up Ramadan. We would go together to the mosque which is only 2 minutes away from our house. What I like most about Ied praying is that we will shake hand (and sometimes hugs and kisses) with all other people (only man to man, woman to woman though). It sounds weird, but it’s a good moment to quickly reconnect with your neighbors and old friends whom you never met for the past year, but also new members of families or neighbors. While shaking hands, we would ask for forgiveness for the mistakes in the past year. At first, I thought this was just a bullshit. How come did I do wrong if I never met someone? But my friends, that’s not true at all. We make mistakes all the time, intentionally or not, directly or indirectly, and whether it hurts someone or not. So, as a precautionary principle we’d take this occasion to show our compassion and forgiveness to others, although it’s not necessary to wait until Eid day to just say sorry or forgive someone. May we have peace in our mind and soul.
A few days have passed after Eid, but better late than never. Eid Mubarak! May you be blessed with joy, peace, and happiness! Selamat hari raya Idul fitri, Taqabbalallahu Minna Wa Minkum. Mohon maaf lahir dan bathin 🙂
Do you have vivid memories of Ramadan and Idul fitri? Or Christmas or other big days?