Families are big on Hari Raya gatherings

Mr Imis Iskandar (standing, sixth from right, in pink) with his extended family, which spans four generations, during their Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration on June 25, 2017.
Mr Imis Iskandar (standing, sixth from right, in pink) with his extended family, which spans four generations, during their Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration on June 25, 2017.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - With more of his relatives starting their own families over the years, it is no simple feat getting everyone together on special occasions, in entrepreneur Imis Iskandar's family.

But on Sunday (June 25), around 50 members of the family - spanning four generations - turned up at the five-room flat in Tampines where Mr Imis' aunt lives. She is the fourth of eight siblings.

With their parents, uncles and aunts seated on couches and chairs, it was an emotional scene as Mr Imis, 34, and his cousins, some with infants in tow, asked for forgiveness from their elders.

"It's always difficult to get everyone together at the same time - that's a big bonus," said Mr Imis. "There's a lot of coordination work to be done, the day before."

The gathering this year was bigger than usual with his father's cousins present, he said.

He added: "Our family is quite close. We get together not only during Hari Raya, but every weekend of the fasting month, we would break fast together."

 

"Before they got married, my dad took care of his siblings," he said, adding that his aunties and uncles also took care of him as a child.

"Everyone would come to our place, since everyone lived in the same house. After that, we just pick a house every year to meet on the first day of Hari Raya. It's an unspoken rule," he added.

For Mr Abu Talib, 66, Mr Imis' uncle and the eldest of the eight siblings, Hari Raya is a special time as it allows the younger generation to meet and get to know each other.

"This year, it's extra special," he said proudly, as his nephews hope to map out their family tree.

His wife, Madam Noraini Abdullah, 67, said she was initially not used to the size of their family, but eventually felt welcome.

She added that as she is ethnic Chinese, her parent-in-laws requested that she spend extended periods of time with the family to know what to expect during such festivities, among other aspects of daily life. She converted to Islam over 40 years ago.

Mr Imis cannot imagine Hari Raya any other way: "It's been like that since I was a child... we all just find reasons to get together."

Across the island, other families did the same, starting their house visiting and spending quality time with their families.

Some, like case worker Suhaili Saad, 32, have booked transport for next weekend in preparation for the house visits to come.

"It has been our family tradition for years," she said. "We always rent a bus to go to each others' houses."

It is usually a 40-seater bus, she said.

"House-visiting as a family is one of the things that all of us look forward the most every year," she said.

She added: "Besides strengthening family ties, it is also a good time to be merry over good food - served at all our homes - and be thankful of this support system we have in our lives.