If you are an adventurous person in search of interesting places and want to enjoy local traditions during your trip to the southeast, head to Malaysia for one of the many festivals. There are many festivals in Malaysia, which can be both religious and traditional, held from year to year in this country. Malays, Indians and Chinese make up the entire population of Malaysia, and each has its own customs, traditions and holidays. Therefore, festivals here are a full range of entertainment from local residents and visiting at least one of them is the direct responsibility of the tourist.
Are there many festivals during the year in Malaysia?
There are overwhelmingly many different religious groups in the country, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, as well as hundreds of different ethnic groups. Because of this, several events are held every month. West and East Malaysia also often host their holiday events. The idea of one of these holidays is that the owner delivers a freshly baked pie to his neighbors and invites his family and friends to dinner. Other more religious celebrations include prayer in a mosque or temple.
Taipusam (late January / early February)
Malaysia has a significant Tamil population in the western parts of the country, especially around Kuala Lumpur. In late January or early February, when the moon is full, Tamils hold one of their most important events. This holiday will honor the memory of Murugan, who defeated the evil spirit named Surupadman.
During this holiday, you will see how devotees to their savior pierce parts of their body, cheeks and tongue. From a foreigner’s point of view, Thaipusam is unusual and unique to the Tamil community, so it will be much more difficult for you to fully appreciate the value of this rite.
To get a better idea of what this festival entails, and if you want to see it, first look at the photos and videos online. Indeed, for some, after watching, the desire to visit this festival immediately disappears.
In Malaysia, Taipusam takes place annually in the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. There is an old Hindu temple inside the Batu cave. Visitors must walk 272 steps to reach the temple and see the secrets of Tamil society.
Chinese New Year (February)
Chinese New Year is the largest Chinese festival in Malaysia. During the event, you will see lion and dragon dances throughout the city, in which people dressed in these colorful costumes perform ritual dances to attract good luck and drive away evil spirits.
On this day, the festive atmosphere in all cities of Malaysia increases several times. Shopping centers and public places are decorated with red lanterns. Children and adolescents traditionally receive “ang pau” (small red envelopes with wishes for a rich New Year). Red is good luck in Chinese culture. Tangerines and oranges are one of the symbols of this holiday and become very popular during this festival, and in every house you visit, you will be presented with a small basket of oranges.
Malaysian Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day, or Buddha’s Birthday, on the first Sunday in May. Buddhists all over the country will go to temple services. The purpose of one of the most important religious holidays in the Buddhist world is to honor the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama (Buddha).
The festivities begin at the temple at midnight, along with devoted monks, dressed in saffron robes, who burn incense and perform prayers. In parts of Malaysia, such as Penang with a significant Buddhist community, the celebration does not end with the service. Also, believers extol their savior with flowers and candles, which they leave in the temple, and sing solemn songs by dawn.
Kaamatan Harvest Festival in Sabah (May 30 and 31)
The most significant cultural event in Sabakh is held annually on May 30 and 31. The Kaamatan Harvest Festival is an ancient pagan celebration to celebrate the successful harvest of ethnic kadazan dushuns. Today, however, there is more emphasis on the social side of things and hosting a party with lots of food, drinks and music.
Local Sabakhans invite their friends and family to their home and serve an endless supply of food and drinks while others participate in social events. Various exhibitions are held around the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association Hall (KDCA) located in Penampanga. On public holidays, traditional dances are held with performers in ethnic costumes. You will also find many regional foods, including hinawa (fermented fish) and bambangan (a type of pickled fruit with yellow flesh similar to mango).
Harvest Festival Hawaii (1st & 2nd June)
Hawaii is the Sarawak version of the harvest festival. Indigenous peoples including Bidayukh, Murut, Kayan take part in one of the largest and most popular festivals in the state. Like Kaamatan, Hawaii was once a pagan festival that soon turned into a public party rather than a religious holiday.
Also on this day, everyone can participate in a beauty contest called Kumang and Kelin, where both men and women can enter. The Hawaiian Harvest Festival concludes with the coronation of the King and Queen (Keeling and Kumang) of the Festival.
Eid (Hari Raya, June)
Eid is the largest festival in the Islamic world. Hari Raya, as this holiday is also called, does not have a fixed date every year. Instead, religious experts determine the time based on the lunar month of Hijri.
Before Eid, Muslims around the world, including in Malaysia, fasted for a whole month. Fasting includes a complete refusal to eat and drink from sunrise to sunset. Eid celebrations begin at the end of Ramadan (the ninth Muslim month) and are the biggest fun in Malaysia. From the very morning people go to the mosque to perform healing and thanksgiving prayers. A typical holiday table includes rendang (meat), satay (Malaysian kebabs) and glutinous rice, as well as a wide variety of cookies and sweets.
Rainforest World Music Festival (mid-July)
The World Music Festival takes place in Kuching, a small town in East Malaysia, in mid-July. Since 1998, popular musicians from all over the world have come to the capital city of Sarawak to perform at this three-day event. The music festival is internationally recognized and attracts many foreign tourists with its magical live music and performances. Genres often include modern styles mixed with traditional instruments to create a hypnotic fusion of sound.
Independence Day / National Day (August 31)
On August 31, 1957, Malaysia declared its independence from the British and formed the Malay Federation. After a long period of colonial rule, Malaysia, then known as Malaya, finally gained sovereignty.
Most of the events take place at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia). As the clock strikes midnight on August 31st, fireworks fill the Kuala Lumpur sky with colorful flowers, marking the start of Independence Day celebrations. Later in the day, you will see ceremonial parades in the streets and performances by schoolchildren and government officials. After the ceremony, festive concerts await, where thousands of locals head to the main square to enjoy the event.
Deepavali, or as it is also called the “Festival of Light”, is the most colorful festival in Malaysia. Local Hindus celebrate this day in a very interesting way, using colored chalk to paint the ground with different patterns while scattering colored rice. All races and religions can join the event, which takes place in city parks, shopping malls and even in the homes of local residents.
Dragon Boat Festival (December)
The International Dragon Boat Festival is Penang’s largest event and attracts more and more tourists every year. Organized by the Penang State Tourism Center, this annual two-day festival starts at 9:00 AM and runs until 5:00 PM. More than 40 Malaysian and international riders come to the Teluk Bahang coastline, 18 kilometers from Georgetown, to compete against each other on colorful traditional boats.
Competitors come from all over Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and China. The Dragon Boat Festival is a unique opportunity to get to know Malaysian culture better, as it is one of the most exciting holidays in all of Malaysia.