A Malaysian Tradition: The Open House

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I just came back from a festive open house organised by my company for its business associates and customers. No, I wasn’t invited; I was there to work, altho’ I got to enjoy the spread, too, after the work was done. And wow, I’m so full now.

Last Thursday evening, we had the festive open house for staff, open to all staff at the corporate head office and 50 representatives from all our divisions and subsidiaries.

Let me tell you, I work for a big company so the number of attendees for both functions – Thursday evening and this evening – was HUGE. So much so that, on both evenings, at one point, guests had to stand and eat as there were no more seats left.

Did we underestimate? Probably.

Why didn’t we hold it somewhere with a bigger seating capacity? We can’t, cuz we own the venue for both functions. ‘Nuff said.

What’s this festive open house all about?

Well, from what I know, this open house concept came from the Chinese and their “habit” of visiting relatives and friends during Chinese New Year. It got to a point where the more well-to-do and well-known Chinese families started organised these visits better. Instead of having relatives and friends drop by throughout the 15 days of Chinese New Year, they organised such visits on a certain day, and then between certain hours on a certain day.

The idea caught on, and soon companies were having open houses, too, as well as political parties and just about anyone with the means and the venue.

Today, the open house function is a part of Malaysian festivities, with the biggest and best-attended being the one organised by Barisan Nasional, the ruling political party during Hari Raya Puasa, a Muslim festive event that celebrates the end of the fasting month. There’s also one organised at the Agong’s palace, the Agong being the appointed King of Malaysia. During both functions, Malaysians from all walks of life queue for the chance of a lifetime to shake hands with the Malaysian Prime Minister at the Barisan Nasional open house, and with the Agong at his palace. Even tourists who happen to be in the country at the time of the functions join in the fun, too.

In recent years, the open house functions have gotten bigger when two festive occasions fell on dates very close to one another. For example, a few years ago, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Puasa happened on consecutive days. This was followed a couple of years later by Hari Raya Puasa and Christmas happening very close to each other. This year, the Hindu festival of Deepavali happened just three days before Hari Raya Puasa. All these joint festivals have meant that bigger official open house functions have been held. I remember when Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year occurred very close to one another, my company’s open house function was called “Kongsi Raya Open House”.

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