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Malaysian Festivals and Fiestas: Filled with Excitement, Malay Celebrations are Fun and Inspiring

Published by Cortez Vaill

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The main festivals in Malaysia are conducted in what is called ‘open house’ style when those who are celebrating at home invite friends to join them for traditional delicacies and friendship. One particular festival in which this is practised is the Hari Raya Aidilfitri in November, the culmination of the holy month of Ramadan. At this time, Muslims nationwide return to their home towns to join family and friends in celebration (wearing their traditional finery) and to attend special prayers at the Mosque.

Main Malaysia Festivals

Festival of Thaipusam in January

Penang is a favourite place in which to take part and observe this festival. Thousands of devotees shave their heads, and attach a wooden frame to the body by dozens of metal skewers as a penance. It’s a somewhat gory spectacle and not for the squeamish. The other place in which to observe this is the Batu Caves in Selangor, Malaysia, in Singapore and in Phuket, Thailand.

Chinese New Year – February

Although the Chinese New Year is celebrated wherever there is a Chinese enclave, including all the major western cities, the best celebrations are seen in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Red lanterns, dragon dances, monies in red and gold packets, and noisy fire crackers – expect all this and more in Malaysia, especially in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Water Festival – April to May

Aquatic sports play a large art in the water festival and visitors can participate in all the activities. As the Malays say “Have a splashing good time”.

Festival of Thanksgiving to the Spirit of the Rice Field 30-31 May

Sabah is the location for this festival where the spirit of the padi is honoured with rice wine, delicious food, dancing and fireworks.

Festival of Wesak – May

For Buddhists, this is one of the most important festivals in the year. Religious offerings and rituals such as “washing the Buddha”, the lighting of joss sticks, and ordination of monks take place in Buddhist temples around the country.

Festival of Gawai – 1-2 June

This is a harvest festival celebrated by the Orang Ulu, the Bidayuh and the Ibans in Sarawak. Dances and traditional ceremonies are held in the ‘long houses’ (communal homes) in the kampongs.

Food and Fruit Fiesta – July

Food lovers and gourmets enjoy the best of Malaysia’s local delicacies at this aptly named fiesta. Delicious tropical fruits, both raw and marinated in syrups and spices, satays of various kinds (pork, chicken, fish) and wonderful desserts, are served during the whole of July.

Celebration of Malaysia’s National Day – 31st August

Merdeka Day, day of the nation’s independence and a big event.

Lantern & Mooncake Festival (Mid-Autumn)

Enjoy a variety of mooncakes and the celebration of peace and prosperity while delighting in the colourful lanterns displayed along the roads and streets of the towns and villages.

Deepavali – November

This Hindu Festival of Lights is celebrated in many places in Asia. Houses are decorated with oil lamps, participants take a ritual morning bath and prayers are offered in the temples.

Christmas – 25th December

Like fellow Christians round the world, Malaysian Christians join together with family to celebrate the birth of Christ and to exchange gifts and attend church services.

Look out for these and other festivals when visiting Malaysia. The free What’s On Guide offered in most hotels and railway stations will have full details.

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