Tuesday, September 6, 2016

[Multiculturalism in Action 2016-17] Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan Culture Workshop

On 13 August 2016, Mr. Syed Ekram Elahi, President of the Bangladesh Association of Hong Kong (BAHK), was invited to give a talk on the religions and social life of Bangladeshis in Hong Kong.

According to Mr. Syed, most Bangladeshis in Hong Kong are Muslims, with a few Hindu and Buddhist families. Various Islamic and Hindu festivals are observed by the Bangladeshi community in Hong Kong.

In the Eid al-Fitr (Festival of breaking of the fast), Bangladeshi Muslims will gather at mosques for morning prayer, and then visit each other’s homes. People will say “Eid Mubarak”, to greet each other, which means “To wish you a happy Eid”, and it is a custom to hug each other one to three times.

Bangladeshi community gathering at Kowloon Mosque for the Eid prayer
Photo source: Syed Ekram Elahi

Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) is another important festival observed by Bangladeshi Muslims in Hong Kong. Animals such as cows and goats are sacrificed and distributed to relatives and people in need. In Bangladesh, there are cattle markets in every village, while in Hong Kong, they usually buy cows and goats from the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse.

Mr. Syed explaining Eid al-Adha

Durga Puja, a Hindu festival of Bengali origin, is jointly celebrated by Bangladeshi Hindus and the West Bengalis from India.  It is organized at Henry G. Leong Community Centre in Yau Ma Tei every year.

Durga Puja celebrated at Henry G. Leong Community Centre

In terms of social life, Mr. Syed told us that the family structure in Bangladesh has changed from joint family to nuclear family. Most people opt to live with their parents rather than to live individually. Although arranged marriage is still common in Bangladesh, the role of parents has changed from making decisions to giving advice. According to Mr. Syed, Bangladeshi men usually get married at the age of 28, while women get married at the age of 22 to 25. Gaye holud is a ceremony observed in the Bengali wedding. Henna and turmeric paste are applied to the bride and groom respectively as a form of blessing.

As told by Mr. Syed, it is hard to conclude the marriage pattern of the second generation in Hong Kong as most youth have not reached marriage age yet. However, he believed that most of them will organize wedding activities in Bangladesh because the family’s social networks are there. It is also expected that intercultural marriage will be more popular among Bangladeshi youth who grow up in Hong Kong. 

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