Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus

A Different Kind of Celebration

By P Michael | May 13, 2020

As the nation prepares for Aidilfitri or Eid al-Fitr celebration in late May alongside the natives of Sarawak who’re looking forward to the Gawai Dayak festival in early June, the current COVID-19 pandemic seems to have dampened our enthusiasm a little. Many may have decided that the celebrations this year be limited to among immediate family members and that any plans for gathering with friends are to be reconsidered.

As it is with many festivities in Malaysia, Aidilfitri and Gawai typically involve a get-together with family and friends at home. Religious services also take place and this is a time where neighbourly camaraderie is strengthened and relationships renewed.  

This year, however, we are faced with the question of how we can maintain some form of familiarity during these festivities in a situation that is so alien to all of us. No doubt it will be very difficult for us to stay connected with family and friends in the physical sense. To some, it may also be challenging to come up with creative ways to keep in touch when there is only so much one can do at a time.

With Aidilfitri and Gawai fast approaching, how can we maintain the traditions and practices that we have come to know and love while observing social distancing?

Saved by the screen 

We live in an era where technologies abound. And indeed, tools like Skype, FaceTime and Zoom are brilliant platforms that can help keep your holiday traditions alive. If you usually plan for a special holiday dinner, why not have all your extended family members log in to Skype at the same time and enjoy a family-get-together virtually. The elderly who might live alone would surely appreciate seeing their children and grandchildren, albeit virtually.

Video chats may also help ease the social distancing and loneliness these older adults are experiencing. And wouldn’t it benefit the youngsters as well, majority of whom are familiar with this form of communication tool?

Share traditions or recreate one

Continue with your holiday traditions by organising activities that are familiar family favourites. Engage with your extended family by posting photos of your baked goods or meals you’ve prepared on social media. While you’re at it, why not put aside some of those cookies you baked in airproof containers to be shared once the Movement Control Order (MCO) is lifted or when you can finally visit. 

If you’re a student away from home, celebrate with the people you live with and around you. Being unable to go home for the holidays can bring one down but having someone to celebrate with ensures that you are not missing out on much. Who knows? It may just spark a new level of friendship or strengthen your relationship with your housemate or friends.  

GawaiPhoto courtesy of Roy Emmor 

Make that phone call

The digital options that are available to us today may make that simple phone call appear so old school. But sometimes old school is more impactful. The pandemic has given us something in common to talk about which can lead to reconnecting with people we know. Even if you’ve neglected to keep in touch with someone, there’s a certainty that someone will speak with you now if you make that call.

Also, just hearing someone’s voice is enough to lift up your spirits especially in these times of social distancing. Even if that call ends up in the voicemail, you’ve let someone know you were thinking about them. And since we are having a more meaningful and deeper conversation, we’d feel more connected to the person we’re speaking to. That, in itself, is good medicine for the isolated and lonely.

But not everyone wants to pick up that call 

Then why not send a snail mail? Many of us no longer send cards by snail mail but sending cards and notes is a good way to remind the people we don’t see often enough that we love them. On top of that, it also concretised within yourself that relationships, be it among family or friends, matter. 

So send a good old-fashion letter or card today. We may have abandoned the meaningful art of writing letters years ago, but the idea of receiving a handwritten letter will lift your spirit especially now.

It is indeed a testing time for most of us. Before COVID-19, we may have taken our social interactions for granted but the pandemic is now forcing us to do things differently. We are now becoming more aware of the importance of staying in contact with our fellow humans. 

The availability of online tools and technology has allowed us to not only share the human emotions that these times bring, but also make our Aidilfitri and Gawai celebrations come alive.

We take this opportunity to wish our readers in advance Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin, and Selamat Hari Gawai, Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai!