My husband's colleague was searching for a parking. The lane was full of cars. A huge tent was erected, loads of tables filled with food had been laid out. Guests were enjoying the food, some were leaving and many more like us were entering. The host and hostess were welcoming all the guests and leading them to savour the vast buffet spread of local Malay cuisine. We could only recognise the varieties of cakes, desserts, fruits and fruit juices. We never had seen such huge spread of food. Food was being cooked in large quantities. We were surprised to see such large scale celebrations.
The guests greeted all of us warmly and invited us to enjoy food. So much food being offered so early in the morning. We had eaten our breakfast before we left our house. We just nibbled few and bid bye to our hosts, as still people were pouring in large numbers. About to thank my husband's colleague for driving us, we were in store for other surprise. She took us to another house few yards away and it was a similar scene there. Loads of guests arriving, greeting and chatting with everyone, enjoying the local food spread. This scene was to repeated many times during the day.
Since my husband was new, his colleague felt attending an 'open house' would be a great opportunity to meet more people. It was indeed true, by the time we came back home, it was 4 pm in the evening. We had visited more than ten houses and our stomachs were bursting. The colleague then explained the concept of 'open house' to us.
'Open house' is a typical Malaysian concept, whereby during festive season, the host selects one particular day as an 'open house' day. 'Open houses' are conducted at the end of the month of Ramadan. The house is literally thrown open from morning till evening for all relatives and friends to come and join in the festivities. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. Even strangers are invited to be a part of festivities.
This is not specific to a particular race. Since Malaysia is a melting pot of all cultures, this tradition is followed by all communities. The Chinese during 'Chinese new year', the Muslims during 'Hari Raya', the Hindus during 'Diwali' and the ethnic tribes during 'Gawai', all of them conduct open houses. The Chinese new year is celebrated during February, Gawai in June and Diwali is usually celebrated in October. The concept is similar and during each festival, one gets to taste local food of the community.
It's an unique Malaysian concept and truly deserves a special mention. Every community invites all the other communities to take part in their celebrations. It promotes the bond among various communities and strengthens brotherly relations. A beautiful reminder to all Malaysians to promote unity and communal harmony. I sincerely wish many nations torn by ethnic strife should take a cue and adopt this practice religiously. It would reduce escalating tensions, bring fighting races under one roof. 'Open house' has all benefits to offer for nations interested in championing unity and peace.