Festivals in Malaysia
Malaysia certainly has many colors which make it appear lively and vibrant, each time you take a look. Perhaps it is the only place in the world with numerous religious holidays on its calendar. For the maximum religious festivals, it observes an open-door policy in which people invite friends and relatives regardless of their faith. The multi-ethnic and multi-religious facets of the country are best seen in the celebration of various festivals that are observed with whole-hearted festivities. Malaysian festivals are generally celebrated nationwide, but sometimes, they are observed at state level. Nearly all religious festivals are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, so the dates get changed every year. Given below are the major festivals commemorated in Malaysia.
New Year’s Day
National Public Holiday, New Year’s Eve is usually celebrated by the urban community throughout Malaysia with lively parties to usher in the New Year. Sporting events, competitions, exhibitions and cultural performances by Malaysian multi-ethnic groups are held in various states.
Hari Raya Aidil Fitri
Hari Raya Puasa (or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri) falls on the first day of the Muslim month of Syawal and is a joyous occasions for all Muslims. It marks the successful observance of fasting throughout the month of Ramadhan – the tenth month of the Muslim calendar. The celebration is determined by sighting of the new moon. After morning prayers at the mosque followed by visits to the graves of family members to pay respects. Open house or invitation for relatives and friends to come to their house is practiced.Plenty of traditional Malay delicacies are served during this festive season.
All mosques, homes, government and commercial buildings are decorated and brightly lit to mark the significant day. The celebrations last a month and although the first three days are celebrated on a grander scale, many Muslims have ‘open houses’ throughout the month to accommodate friends.
Celebrated throughout Malaysia by Hindus on the tenth month of the Hindu calendar. Thaipusam is a day for penance and atonement among the Hindu community. Thaipusam an extraordinary festival, is a time for Hindu devotees to fulfil a vow they have made to the Lord Muruga, also known as Lord Subramaniam. The displays of devotion are varied, but the most devout prepare themselves for weeks, purifying themselves by fasting and celibacy. In a state of religious ecstasy thousands of devotees carrying body piercing kavadis – a frame decorated with colored papers, tinsels, fresh flowers, and fruits as a form of penance, makes this a once in lifetime experience. They move through the town up the hill to the Batu Caves with the kadavis tearing at their flesh, but without appearing to feel any pain. Kuala Lumpur is probably the best place to enjoy this colourful and fascinating festival as this is where Lord Muruga’s jeweled chariot is led through the streets of the city, culminating at the Batu Caves in Selangor.
Chinese New Year
Celebrated over a periods of 15 days, beginning from the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, this is the most important annual festival for the Chinese community. Legend has it, Buddha invited all animals to his kingdom but only 12 attended. With that, Buddha dedicated a year to each animal. Each year is named after one of the 12 animals according to the Chinese Zodiac. Chinese New Year is celebrated with abundance of delicacies , family gatherings, & the lighting of fire crackers at midnight. Ang Pows or red packets of money are given to the young and unmarried while the symbol of prosperity, the mandarin orange, is liberally consumed. It is the time when offerings are made to appease the spirits and gods. Houses are cleaned and decorated to prepare for the big day. New clothes are bought and worn. The colour red is vividly displayed in many homes for ‘prosperity’ and ‘luck’. The traditional dragon and lion dances herald in the new year, amidst banging gongs and drums. Penang is the place to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Celebrated around May by Buddhists which marks three momentous events in Buddha’s life – his birthday, enlightenment, and achievement of Nirvana. As the most important figure in Buddhism his life is celebrated and revered. The celebration begins at dawn when devotees gathering at the temples to meditate on the Eight Precepts. The ‘Bathing the Buddha’ ceremony is often part of Wesak celebrations. Water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha and serves as a reminder to purify the mind from evil. Donations, giving food to the needy, offerings of incense, joss sticks releasing of pigeons, ordination of monks and the offering of flowers normally takes place in temples. Chanting and praying are an important part of the Wesak celebration. At night, processions of floats parade the streets, with devotees carrying candles.
Hungry Ghost Festival
Celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month by Buddhists and Taoist, it is believed according to Chinese tradition, that the gates of hell are opened to free the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth. Some even think that the ghosts would seek revenge on those who had wronged them in their lives. The reason why the Chinese celebrate this festival is to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. They also feel that offering food to the deceased appeases them and wards off bad luck. Sacrificial offerings are made by burning fake money notes, which are also known as hell money and even paper television or radio sets. Some families also burn paper houses & cars to give to their dead relatives. The Chinese feel that these offerings reach the ghosts and help them live comfortably in their world. Religious ceremonies are also held at temples
Gawai Dayak, a festive celebrated in Sarawak on 1st June every year is both a religious and social occasion. It is a thanksgiving day marking good harvest and a time to plan for the new farming season or activities ahead for the Dayaks, which generally refers to the Iban, Bidayuh and the Orang Ulu communities in Sarawak. Their homes are cleaned and the graves of ancestors are tended to. Gawai is an occasion for parties, fun and games, processions and open houses. The Ibans working outside their village returned to the village for the celebration. Celebrations begin with a reunion dinner for the entire family. Here, the youngest member of the family will offer the parents a plate of specially prepared food. There is singing, dancing and considerable drinking of tuak or rice wine in the local longhouses. Livestock is also sacrificed to ensure a good harvest the following season.
Tadau Kaamatan (Harvest Festivals)
The indigenous tribes of the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut of Sabah celebrate their harvest festival in May. Grateful thanks are offered to the spirit of the paddy, called Bambaazon / Bambarayon, by the Kadazan Dusun. A dance is performed by a high priestess, or Boohizan, to search for the Bambarayon. Once found, a good harvest can be expected Agricultural shows, exhibitions, cultural programs, buffalo races, and other traditional games are held. There is much merrymaking and feasting with Tapai (rice wine) flowing freely throughout the festivities. A Unduk Ngadau ( Harvest Festival Queen ) pageant is held to seek the fairest maiden, honoring a sacrifice made by a maiden in legendary times.
Lantern & Mooncake Festival
Although its origins were founded in times of war in China where it celebrates the overthrow of the Mongols during the end of the Yuan Dynasty (120G- 1341 AD) in China. , the lantern and ‘Mooncake Festival‘ or ‘Tang Lung’ has come more to symbolize a quiet celebration of peace and shared prosperity. Legend has indicated that the secret about a plot against the Mongolians was hidden inside the mooncake and the mooncake was distributed widely. Lanterns were used at night as signals from higher grounds and hilltop. Today Malaysians of all walks of life celebrates this festival with colorful lantern hanging on the house & enjoying the highly delectable variety of mooncakes available. These cakes are rich, round pastries filled with a mixture of sweet red bean paste, lotus nut paste, or salted egg yolk. Mooncakes are available throughout the country for about a month while lantern processions and competition are held around in some neighborhoods.
Commonly known to Hindus as the Festival of Lights, Deepavali is celebrated during the 7th month of the Hindu calendar. Deepavali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, when Lord Krishna defeated Narkansura. Oil baths are taken in the morning, before donning new clothes and paying a visit to the temple. Homes are lit with oil lamps, called vikku, signifying victory over darkness. This is believed to invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who will not enter an unlit house. As with all open houses in Malaysia, friends join in the celebrations by visiting the homes of Hindu friends and relatives to extend good wishes and to partake in the feasting and jollity.
Witness the Portuguese Settlement transformed into a spectacle of brilliant lights with beautiful decorated Christmas Trees in every house and the sweet sounds of caroling in the air. Midnight services are held in churches, to celebrate to birth of Christ. Christians in Malaysia celebrates by decorating Christmas trees, attending church services and caroling. ‘Open Houses’ are also held on Christmas Day, during which guests are treated to food and drinks. Exchange of gifts are popular. Roast turkey is a common and traditional dish.
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