Malaysia celebrates a number of festivities and holidays every year that illustrate the multicultural and multi religious nature of the society. To add more charm and attraction to each of these festivals, they also have an ‘open door’ policy where people from other faiths, religions and countries are welcomed into homes where they can experience the culture first hand along with the festivities surrounding the celebrant’s festival.
Hari raya Haji: Also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice”, Hari Raya Haji is a three day festival celebrated by Muslims all over the world with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Celebrated to mark the end of the annual holy Mecca pilgrimage of Hajj, the festival commemorates Prophet Mohammad’s willingness to sacrifice his son in the name of god. On this day, volunteers gather together in mosques to offer prayers and reflect on sermons that are read aloud. After these customary prayers, sacrifices are made of goat, sheep and cows. The meat is then packed and distributed among the less fortunate Muslim families. After all these customary practices, devotees then head out to meet and greet their friends and family for lunch and merrymaking.
Hungry Ghost Festival: Also known as the “Getai Fever”, this festival is celebrated by the Chinese in Malaysia to pay respect to the dead. In fact, according to them, during this month the gates of hell are opened and the dead are free to roam the earth at their own will. On this day, believers burn incense and present prayer offerings along with fruits such as Mandarin Oranges or roasted suckling pig made especially for the occasion. You can also go and catch some entertaining and boisterous live wayang and getai performances performed for entertaining the spirits in many popular Malaysian areas. Ranging from crazy bawdy standup comedy to Chinese song and dance numbers, to sensuous acrobatic pole dancing, you are welcome to watch the show. So visit Malaysia during this festival and check out these adventurous and entertaining ways through which the Chinese entertain their spirits.
Thaipusam: A highly symbolic Hindu festival, Thaipusam is a highly revered annual procession made by the Tamil Hindu community of Malaysia. Celebrated in the honor of Lord Murugan at the famous Batu Caves, the festival is held during the full moon day of the 10th Tamil month, called Thai that falls around mid January each year. Bringing a colorful visual spectacle for all to witness, the procession is full of dazzling Indian drum rhythms and Hindu chants along with chariot bearing the idol of the deity that brings the traffic of the city to a standstill. The devotees participating in the procession start preparing for the same about a month earlier when they have to live a life of abstinence and vegetarianism. The sacred ritual of Thaipusam in Malaysia is a true act of faith that is celebrated focally in Batu Caves in Selangor and at the Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple in Penang.
Vesak Day: Commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha, Vesak Day is the most significant day in the Buddhist calendar. All over the world, Buddhists spend this day with immense joy, peace and reflection. In Malaysia, this day falls in the month of May, on the 15th day of the fourth month of Chinese Lunar Calendar. Buddhists around the world celebrate the day by congregating together in their temples before the hoisting of Buddhist flag and hymn singing afterwards. Simple offerings are made of candles, flowers and joss sticks to the spiritual leader Buddha. It is said the good deeds performed on this day are multiplied many times over. These include mass blood donations at hospitals, releasing caged birds and animals, vegetarianism, and various other deeds.
Chinese New Year: Considered to be one of the most anticipated occasions of the year, Chinese New Year is celebrated by Malaysians from all walks of life with great zeal and enthusiasm. People wear new clothes and clean their houses to make way for good luck and happiness. They also make New Year visits to friends and family. In addition to all these customary rituals, there are stunning street light ups, night markets, lion dancers, fire eaters and female dance troupes that provide you with an unforgettable street entertainment. However, the centerpiece of all the festivities is the Chingay Parade. It is a great carnival like parade with dazzling floats, magicians, fire eaters, sizzling dance acts and other thrilling spectacles. Come, immerse yourself in the Chinese festivities that are best held at Penang and understand the Chinese culture better.
Gawai deyak: The festival of Gawai Deyak is an important occasion for the Ibans ethnic group and marks the end of paddy rice harvest season. On this day, celebrations are held amidst friends, family and people from various other ethnic groups with lots of gaiety and enthusiasm. The ceremony starts with a prayer led by the tribal chief to seek blessings from the god. This is then followed by tribal dances performed by men in warrior attire. This is then followed by the most important ritual of the day- the miring. This is a ritual performed by the tribe’s elderly where they simultaneously mutter chants for the protection, safety, peace and bountiful harvest for the coming season.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri: Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the time when you can meet the King and Queen of Malaysia personally. This is your chance to shake hands with them, as well as take pictures (and gawk) at the Istana Negara (the Royal palace) - the official residence of the King. Malaysians have this great tradition which is called "open-house", a warm showing of what is known as Malaysian hospitality. Doors are opened to friends and foes. It does not even matter if you do not even know your hosts! Just wish them Selamat Hari Raya and enjoy the glorious feast prepared for this celebration. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the most joyful of Muslim celebrations celebrated after Ramadhan, the fasting month. This is also the time when Muslims working in the towns and cities make an exodus for their kampung or villages.