Gifting during festive visits is an age-old custom but now, there are various ways to make that statement of appreciation, writes Zuhaila Sedek
HARI Raya is still a few weeks away but my mum has started discussing with her sister the menu for that special day. You see, every Hari Raya my mum and her siblings swap dishes, a tradition in many Malay families because food is buah tangan (gift) to them. But this tradition is slowly dying, with hampers as gifts growing in popularity.
CULTURE FOR THE URBANITES
Karyaneka general manager Mansor Abdul Latiff explains the custom: “It can be a bit embarrassing to go empty-handed to your relative’s home. Although it is not wrong, Malays are accustomed to bringing along a buah tangan.”
Mansor’s department is responsible for marketing craft products from Kraftangan Malaysia, a body under the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture.
Presenting a buah tangan is a sign of appreciation from the visitor to the homeowner. “It also reflects the bond of friendship,” adds Mansor.
Before hampers came into the picture, people often brought food in a four-tier steel container called mangkuk tingkat.
“The culture of bringing a hamper instead of home-cooked food could also be influenced by other festive occasions such as Christmas,” says Mansor.
Although giving hampers is popular with urbanites, it is not always so for those living in the village.
“When I go back to my kampung, people don’t bring hampers when visiting their relatives,” says Raja Faliq Raja Adam from Johor Baru. “Who has the money to buy expensive hampers to bring to every house anyway?”
He also thinks that giving a hamper during Hari Raya is popular only among VIPs. He prefers home-cooked food than the snacks usually packed in a hamper.
“There is a lot of love that goes into preparing home-cooked food,” he says.
Presenting hampers during Hari Raya, however, is the trend in the cities. It has become an indication of status and the packaging is meant to impress.
“My late father gave acar buah instead of a hamper. He was well remembered by his business associates, customers and employees for it,” says Raja Faliq.
Hampers, nevertheless, make good buah tangan if attention is given todetails.
Ettora Group managing director Giorgianna says that there are a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to gift hampers.
“For Hari Raya, make sure that all the items are halal,” says Giorgianna.
Avoid favouritism when it comes to corporate hampers.
“You can never go wrong with a food hamper,” adds Giorgianna.
Non-gourmet items such as batik sarung, songket or jewellery can add appeal to the hamper.
Giorgianna adds that when choosing each food item, ensure it’s not expired.
Conventional hamper designs used to be made of a small plastic basket for the base (or sometimes cardboard), plastic wrap and plastic ribbons.
“Transparent plastic wrap and ribbons are no longer up-to-date,” says Mansor.
Baskets and boxes are now a hit.
Karyaneka, for instance, offers handmade rattan as well as bamboo baskets.
“A good quality basket can be pricey but it can be re-used. Don’t be scared to spend a little bit on a hamper because it reflects your personality,” he adds.
For that clean, simple and modern look, go for the boxes instead. Ettora’s hampers are a good example. This year, its theme is black and white. The gift boxes are cleverly designed. One can be converted into a dual purpose Al-Quran and rehal (stand), and the others come in leather and paper board. “These days it is all about understated beauty. A box adds an element of surprise for the receiver,” says Giorgianna.
To add interest, decorate the boxes with good ribbons and flowers.
“Ribbons signify celebration.”