Raya Open House: The Do’s, the Don’ts and the Downright Ugly

You’re at your best friend’s Raya open house. The aroma of Beef Rendang fills your nostrils. Your tummy rumbles. You hurriedly pile on a massive serving of Rendang over a mound of rice. Then, a moment of realization struck you: you hadn’t meet your friend’s parents yet. Nor have you taken off your shoes.

The festivities of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or generally known as Eid, are anticipated by everyone in Malaysia regardless of race or faith, unified by one common love: food. And where could you eat classic Raya dishes FOR FREE you may ask? At a Raya open house, of course.

However, some tend to forget that Raya open houses aren’t merely venues; they’re somebody’s home. It’s where they eat, sleep, relax and raise their children.

Therefore, we must practice discretion especially at open houses. Here’re some things you should and shouldn’t do at a Raya open house!

1. The Do’s
2. The Don’ts
3. The Downright Ugly

The Do’s

1. Be punctual

A golden circular clock with roman numeral dial and its inner machinations and gears exposed against solid black background

The most overlooked aspect of attending any invitation is punctuality. People often underestimate how the host might feel or have to deal with if you arrive slightly late or even too early.

Food or other arrangements might not be ready if you arrive too  early or, on the flipside, the hosts might not have all day to entertain guests, i.e. you.

Therefore, the best practice is to notify the host of your arrival ahead of time and update them regularly about your situation so they could make necessary arrangements to accommodate you.

2. Dress for the occasion

3 jenis pakaian tradisional pernikahan melayu untuk lelaki dan perempuan dari Kelantan, Perak dan Kedah

Unless specifically told to dress in drag or skimpy outfits, a general rule of thumb when attending Raya open houses is to dress modestly; the less skin you show, the better.

That being said, it depends on the host’s family culture as to how much — or rather how little — you’re able to get away with clothing-wise. Although, do be mindful that the prevailing Malay culture in tandem with Islamic teachings encourages modest dressing.

Plus, it’s always good to dress in traditional Malay outfits as it’s in the spirit of cultural accommodation! ̶1̶M̶a̶l̶a̶y̶s̶i̶a̶  Malaysia Madani and all that.

3. Greet the hosts!


For Malay Muslims, it’s a familiar routine when visiting somebody’s home to greet with a hearty Assalammualaikum (peace be upon you) and in the case of greeting elders do “shake hands” (pictured above) with said elders upon arriving.

Even so, there’re still some Malay Muslims that ignore this cultural courtesy. For non-Muslims however, it’s as simple as just saying hello!

Oh, and don’t forget to leave your shoes at the door before entering!

4. Clean and tidy up after yourself

Marble counter being wiped by a blue wiping cloth by a person who's wearing yellow gloves.

We’re all taught to clean up after ourselves since early childhood, especially in our own homes. The rules, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, apply to Raya open houses as well.

Seeing as we aren’t Neanderthals, it’s worth reminding the tiny minority who still are to always keep bathrooms clean after using and to always flush the toilets, and to readjust what’s been adjusted, return what’s been taken, put back what’s been moved.

As to the best part of any open house (hint: it rhymes with good), make sure to not leave a mess while dining. If you do, grab a wet wipe and clean it up!

Additionally, the host’s family are typically the ones cleaning the dishes but do take the extra step and offer to clean your own dishes for extra open house street cred.


The Don’ts

1. Being greedy

We know it’s nearly impossible to resist the delectably fragrant aroma of Raya food. But what you can resist is your intrusive thoughts of gobbling it all up, turning an all-you-can-eat into you-can-eat-all.

Avoid taking too much food, especially to the point of overflow which could leave a trail of brown slime if the plate is tipped a hair to one side.

However, try not to get too small a portion either as the host, especially their grandmother-cum-master chef, would want you to enjoy and try all the dishes they’ve lovingly prepared. So feel free to take some of everything. Just keep it moderate!

2. Rooms are sacred. DO NOT ENTER.

Have you always wanted to explore an empty mansion and peek through all 42 rooms? Well, a Raya open house is usually a 4-room terrace house that’s unfit for such exploration.

It goes without saying that you should never pry into bedrooms, even if the host is your best friend. Bedrooms are private domains where people dream in. It’s a deeply intimate space that’s reserved for people whose bed has remembered their weight.

Therefore, you should always ask for permission before entering bedrooms, or any closed room in general. Or better yet, just stick to the common area and be the unproblematic non-snooper that you are!

3. The fridge is also sacred. DO NOT OPEN.

It can be an automatic reflex for some to browse the fridge when they get comfortable at a friend’s house. Your friend might not mind it but they should, because a fridge reveals a lot about a person and their family culture.

When you browse the fridge at the open house you’re attending, you best hope that it’s well-stocked and organized. At least the host family can feel proud of their obsessive cleanliness when they catch you snooping.

On the flipside, if the fridge is nearly empty or disorganized, your insensitive act could cause them to feel shame, and you wouldn’t want them to feel that way on such a joyous occasion, would you?

The Downright Ugly

1. Running away from your responsibility

It’s okay to make mistakes. People are empathetic and can be quick to forgive if you communicate well. Remember this if you ever find yourself in trouble at an open house.

If you accidentally break a vase, offer to pay for it and sweep up the shards same as how you’d wipe off spilt drink. But the last thing you should do is to turn the blind eye as if nothing happened.

That broken vase could’ve been a 1-of-1 family heirloom. It could’ve also just been an impulse purchase at the RM5 shop. But the fact remains that it’s theirs, and there’s a reason why it’s displayed where it was before it shattered, forever gone from their lives.

So be sensitive towards their feelings as well as their possessions. Apologize. It’s okay to make mistakes.

2. Causing a scene

At a Raya open house, or just about any social setting where there’s a host and you’re the guest, please understand that the host is doing everything in their power to give guests the best possible experience.

It may sound like the host is indebted to your presence and must entertain your whims. That may be so, but we as guests should instead be subservient to the host and help lessen their load wherever possible.

In the event where the host confronts you for whatever mishap might’ve occurred, don’t be rude and talk back or become defensive. Lower your ego and accept their reproach, lest you become the center of attention and subsequently, a laughing stock.

Open houses can be one of the most fun and memorable experiences you’ll have during the holy month of Syawal. It’s where we can get together as friends, meet new people, reacquaint with distant relatives and most importantly, enjoy damn good food.

So don’t spoil the fun for everybody (yourself included)! As long as you exercise discretion and apologize for any wrongdoings, everything’ll be right as rain.

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