The multi-cultural wonders of Malaysia are best experienced with the numerous festivals that dot the country’s calendar of events. The festivities that surround these events in Malaysia will provide a great opportunity for you to experience the interesting ways in which different cultures, traditions, and religions have merged beautifully, making this country the wonderful melting pot that attracts countless visitors all-year round.
Here are some of the most interesting and most colorful festivals in Malaysia. You can plan your Malaysian adventure to coincide with these events, so you can get a better appreciation of what makes this country uniquely wonderful, in a multi-cultural way.
1) Chinese New Year
Malaysia celebrates Chinese New Year in a grand manner, and is one of the countries in Southeast Asia to do so in a big scale. The Chinese communities around the country adorn their houses, the streets, and other establishments with traditional red decorations to ward off bad spirits.
Fireworks, along with lion and dragon dances, are performed as part of the 15-day period (in January or February, depending on the Lunar calendar) of Chinese New Year festivities in shopping malls, on the streets, and on other business establishments. Family get-togethers food abundant spreads with food items that are symbolic of life, energy, and wealth.
2) Deepavali (Diwali)
The Hindu Festival of Lights (and also the Hindu New Year’s Day) celebration in Malaysia is a very colorful and festive one, with the multitude of lights symbolizing victory and hope against darkness, evil, and other challenges for the Hindus.
Celebrated in October or November, Deepavali is a day of prayers in Hindu homes and temples; on this day, the Hindus wake up at dawn to bathe their bodies with oil, before proceeding to say their prayers. Hindu homes and temples are beautifully-lit with oil lamps; fireworks, processions, and street bazaars delightfully mark the festivities in areas where Indian communities are located (such as Kuala Lumpur’s Little India). If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Hindu home for Deepavali, you will definitely have a feast of flavorful Indian dishes and desserts!
Marking the end of the Ramadan (the month of fasting), Hari Raya Puasa is considered as the most important Muslim festival in Malaysia. The day is celebrated with prayers, and open houses allow Muslims to share food with their family members and the rest of the community; the best of Malay cuisine is offered to loved ones and guests to mark the end of the fasting month. Children and the elderly are given gifts of money in green packets (similar to the Chinese ang-poh)
This Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community starts with a procession from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, and proceeds for 15 kilometers to the Batu Caves. The eight-hour journey culminates in climbing the 272 steps to the top of the caves; this event attracts more than one million devotees, and tens of thousands of tourists from other countries.
The devotees carry elaborate sacrificial burdens (called “kavadis”) to implore help and blessings from the God Murugan. Thaipusam is also celebrated in another cave site in Ipoh, Perak, and in Penang.
Wesak or Wesak day is a Buddhist celebration commemorating the three most important days (birthday, enlightenment, and the achievement of Nirvana) in the life of Buddha.
Buddhists in Malaysia begin the festivities at dawn, as they gather in Buddhist temples throughout the country to meditate; giving food and donations to the needy offerings of joss sticks and incense, and prayers are also part of Wesak day celebrations. One of the highlights of Wesak is the breathtaking float procession, usually of a statue of Buddha.