Ramadan, which started on April 24 and ended on May 23 in 2020, is arguably the biggest holiday season in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia . During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset and concentrate on doing good deeds and strengthening their faith. After a month of fasting, Muslims celebrate overcoming this challenge with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, known as Hari Raya in Malaysia, and Lebaran in Indonesia. Eid celebrations in these countries typically involve visiting family and friends in the hometowns and villages, feasting on traditional food and baked goods. Many would be decked out in their best traditional outfits, usually newly bought.
Importance of Ramadan for the food retail sector in Malaysia and Indonesia
Ramadan is also the most important time of the year for food vendors in Malaysia and Indonesia. Although daytime is characterized by abstaining from food and drink, nighttime is quite the opposite. In Malaysia, night bazaars packed with street food vendors would spring up in every city and village. The Indonesian practice of bukber, or breaking of the fast out of home, mean that food sales tend to increase during this time. Malaysians too make an event of breaking fast out of home, especially with friends.
Food retail sales too increase during Ramadan, as families prepare for Eid. The tradition of serving guests sweet drinks, as well as sweet baked goods, lead to an increase in the retail growth of baking ingredients and non-alcoholic beverages compared to the non-Ramadan period.
Despite the commercial activity surrounding Ramadan, Muslims still overwhelmingly view it as a holy month for self-reflection and focusing on their faith. This results in increased religious activity, which then spill into and influence media use. Religious apps, and religious content on television and radio see an increase in users. The time when Muslims consume media also changes, with increased use before dawn, when Muslims wake up for the pre-dawn meal, and at night after breaking fast.
Impact of COVID-19 on how Ramadan is celebrated
This year, however, Ramadan and Eid was markedly different. The COVID-19 pandemic had prevented all communal and public aspects of Ramadan from taking place, especially in Malaysia. Many Malaysians were conscientiously limiting their movements. Night bazaars were banned, and many food vendors turned to digital platforms such as food delivery apps or online marketplaces to sell their wares. The nightly communal tarawih prayers were also banned there, and mosques instead offered online religious lessons and sermons. Malaysia’s Movement Control Order was in effect till after Ramadan, limiting inter-state travel to essential purposes and thus impacting the annual balik kampung exodus from the cities.
Indonesia’s government, on the other hand, did not officially restrict movement. This resulted in several mosques ignoring social distancing measures and holding mass prayers, as well as a not insignificant share of the population making the journey back to their hometowns, known as mudik. It was feared that the end of Ramadan could coincide with a spike in cases of COVID-19 in both countries, and several COVID-19 cases have already been attributed to mudik.
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In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 32 most important statistics relating to "Ramadan in Southeast Asia".