Celebrating Eid in a big family is always more delightful. My father has ten siblings, and when I was young many of them were already married, and have little kids.

We used to live far away from grandpa’s place. In Terengganu, Kelantan, Johor….all over the place. Of course we’d excitedly await the time for balik kampung, for Eid.

(There are no phrases in English that could translate ‘balik kampung’. It actually means going back to one’s hometown, visiting one’s parents for whatever celebration – because we’d want to spend festive season with our loved ones.)

I remember my uncles gathering around the huge iron wok making dodol. This sweet coconut candy needs energy to make, especially when it’s all thick and gooey. They’d sit around, each making ketupat while waiting for their turn to stir, chatting and making fun of each other. It takes hours to finish – usually they’d start in the late afternoon, and the process would go on until almost midnight. Sweat dripping, sweet smells drifting, laughter upon laughter…

And I remember Wak Des would buy the meat for rendang, and some other brothers would cut them up for grandma to cook.

It’s amazing that such a petite lady has that much energy. She would’ve woken up at around 3+am to cook for sahur. Then she’d start processing all the onions, garlic, ginger, spices and herbs for the main meals. The aunties would help out with the preparation, of course. The lontong, ketupat, kuah kacang, rendang daging, ayam bakar, sayur lode, daging kicap (for Cik Mi, of course)….she’d be giving out orders in the kitchen, and start to make jeneng krisik all by herself.

Not forgetting that for a few days before that she’d have been up and about making bholu contong (my dad’s favourite), bholu gulung (MY favourite, and Hafiz’s too), bholu basah (everyone’s favourite), emping melinjo, and satru/putu kacang (Cik Mi’s kuih). The year after she passed away, the older aunties wondered, who’d make satru for Cik Mi now she’s gone?

The thing about satru is, it’s tedious!! Now, my mom and aunties has yet to come up with a conclusion on which step should be done first. My mom and I tried making it once when grandma was still around, and she lead us along the way. We need to heat up the green peas first, then blend, then I think mix with some sugar…thing is we’re not sure how many times we must put them under the sun. And thing about Malaysian weather is – it’d be rainy or cloudy whenever we decide to make those satrus. So we haven’t had those for quite some time. Yes, we did buy some but surely it’s not the same…

Speaking of ketupat..
It took me three or four years to master the skills of making ketupats. Since I started school, before Eid I’d sit on my aunt/uncles laps and learn to make them. Hey, it ain’t easy and we make it like once a year! Filling in the rice is tricky too…and it does depend on the type of rice one bought! Grandma would wash the rice and strain them on a bakul mengkuang, and the younger aunties, with me and some cousins would fill the sarung ketupat, and lontong too, with rice.

Of course, children wouldn’t sit around the kitchen and help out all day long!
My grandpa bought this huge swing-chair thing when I was very young, and this is the centre of our play. We’d swing it fast, enjoying the wind; or climb on it and chat on top of the swing. Abang Rafli would always climb the trees around the house – well, he did fall one day but he’s ok. Grandpa grew some bushes of flower plants – small purple flowers with orange seeds which we’d play with endlessly. We’d pluck the seeds and throw at each other, or put them in an old pot of grandma’s with other leaves and flowers, pretending to make a dish. Sometimes we’d pack them up in huge jackfruit leaves, pretending they were nasi lemak and sell those to our uncles.

The sand on grandpa’s front yard!! That’s another play material that we loved so much, especially to younger kids and toddlers! The older ones would draw stuff on it. The younger ones would just pat on it or mix with water and it’d become muddy..

The fireworks and bunga api..
Do you remember the bunga api with a cat as a brand? The sulphur/carbon/whatever stuck at the end of a strand of fine metal wire? This was my favourite bunga api – the sparks are nice, and we could make all sorts of formations with a pack of them! Really nice to see them form squares or triangles or stairs. Sometimes we’d stick them on the ground, line them up, and light all of them up Oh, before all that, Cik Mi and Abang Rafli would be busy putting up the oil lamps on the front yard, of course.

Talking about oil lamps, Kampung Bukit Kapar (our kampung, of course) was popular for its creative oil lamp and light formations, also gateways, and was covered by TV3 for a few years. Youngsters (late teenage, early twenties) would build up replicas of wooden houses, ships, buildings or vehicles, whatever they may fancy, and decorate them with lights and oil lamps. Different streets would show off different styles. One or two nights before Eid my dad or uncles would take us out by car/van around the village to see these creative expressions of the young.

I remember the sounds of the self-made cannons – villages/streets would fight with each other – whose cannon would sound the loudest? Boom, here and there! They still do it til now but to a much lesser extent. These cannons were traditionally made with bamboo – the larger the bamboo the louder it’d sound. So it’s up to the young men to look for the largest bamboo they could get. Nowadays they’d use cement or metal tubes – bad thing is some went to the extent of stealing from common waterworks!!

Please don’t do this at home – my father and uncles, of course, used to play those cannons when they were younger. They said nowadays kids get injured because they do not know the correct technique and theory behind cannon making. Hmm…I think I shouldn’t elaborate.

At midnight on the eve of the celebration, my uncles would light up some fireworks. Anyone remember those long tubes with red covering and beautiful, colourful sparks? There’s no way of knowing how many times the sparks would come out, and we’d all count, one by one, until it’s gone.

After midnight, when our mums call us in to sleep (or did they?), we’d put out mattresses in the front area of the house and, well, tried to sleep. I remember Kak Nina and Kak Dida would bring their huge boxes of colour pencils, and we’d stay in drawing and colouring.

Gosh….those were the days….a house full of cheer and the younger boys would sometimes fight and cry (now they’re like almost 6 foot tall each), accidents would happen (like when Arif pulled a cat’s tail and got scratched deep, or when Tau was cleaning up the lawn and accidentally caught a burnt plastic on his wrist, or when Abang Rafli fell from a tree), sometimes the food overcooked (like when Cik Mi and Adam looked after the rendang…….). I guess we’d always look back with laughter in our hearts and tears in our eyes.