Malaysians celebrate numerous religious festivals that are based on the Muslim, Hindu, and Chinese lunar calendars, and so vary in time from year to year.
Hari Raya Aidil Adha – January
Hari Raya Aidil Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of Zulhijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim calendar. The festival marks the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The day begins with prayers in mosques and is followed by the offering of cattle or goats to the needy.
Chinese New Year - February
On the eve of Chinese New Year, family members hold reunion dinners followed by 'open houses' for relatives and friends. Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the lunar calendar and is celebrated over a period of 15 days. It is a joyous event marked by family reunions, giving of red packets (“ang pows”) by parents to children or among relatives. The mandarin oranges and plum blossom stalks are used as decorations in Chinese homes and shopping complexes for prosperity and good luck. The lion and dragon dance performances accompanied by energetic drums, gongs and cymbals add to the festive air.
Thaipusam - February
Thaipusam is the day of penance and thanksgiving for Hindu devotees pay homage to Lord Maruga. Kuala Lumpur is the best place to celebrate the festival where the deity's jewelled chariot is led in a mass procession through the streets of the city, culminating at the Batu Caves in Selangor. A memorable spectacle is the thousand of devotees in a trance-like state carrying body-piercing kavadis or ornate frames. Thaipusam is celebrated on a big-scale in Selangor, Penang, Malacca, Johor and Perak.
Prophet Mohammed's Birthday - March
It is another important occasion in the Muslim calendar. The birthday of Prophet Muhammad, celebrated on the 12th of the month of Rabiulawal. It is marked by special prayers and sermons in mosques, followed by processions and feasts.
Easter - April
Candle-lit processions from St. Peter’s Church in Malacca on Palm Sunday
Wesak Day - May
Wesak Day celebrates the Lord Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death, marked by ceremonies at Buddhist temples, including the release of caged birds to symbolize the freeing of captive souls. Most Buddhists observe a vegetarian diet on this day and in some towns, like Penang, a procession takes place at night.
Harvest Festival - May
This is Sabah's most anticipated cultural fest where ethnic groups come together to showcase all things traditional. Sabah Fest is the prelude to the Harvest Festival or Tadau Ka'amatan, the biggest annual celebration in the state. From delicious local cuisine to traditional dances, this is the perfect time to visit the Land Below the Wind, otherwise known as Sabah.
Gawai Dayak - June
The Gawai Dayak festival is celebrated by Ibans, Orang Ulu and Bidayuh of Sarawak in early June and marks the end of the rice-harvesting season. The traditional ceremonies and dances held throughout Sarawak in the longhouses and Mardi Gras through Kuching. Visitors are served rice wine or tuak and chicken cooked in bamboo as well as other traditional delicacies at the many 'open houses'.
Hungry Ghost Festival - August
During the 7th month in the Chinese lunar calendar, the Chinese community in a sense of reverence and apprehension celebrates this festival.
National Day - August
Malaysia's national day on August 31st is celebrated on a grand scale with colorful parades, stage shows, and competitions at major towns throughout the country.
Mid-Autumn Festival - September
The Mid-autumn Festival falls on the 15th day in the 8th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The luminous light of the full, circular moon also signifies lovers seeking unity. In addition, the festival is said to honor the birth of the Earth God, to whom the farming community gives thanks for the bounties reaped. In Malaysia and parts of the world with a significant resident Chinese community, a wide array of moon cakes can be found during this period in Asian markets and bakeries.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri - October
Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Muslim festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting and abstinence. It is a two-day national holiday. Malaysian Muslims begin their day with visits to the graves of loved ones, followed by prayers and the seeking of forgiveness from their elders. Relatives and friends are invited to the many 'open houses' where they are served with a generous spread of food and traditional delicacies.
Deepavali - November
Hindu ‘Festival of Light’ in the seventh month of the Hindu calendar celebrating the return from exile of Lord Rama, marked by fire-walking ceremonies at Hindu temples. Molded by religion, mythology and culture, Hindus have celebrated this festival in India for thousands of years.
Christmas - DecemberMalaysian Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th each year with midnight mass and carolers just like Christians in other parts of the world. Many Christians invite their friends and families into their homes for food and fellowship on Christmas Day. This practice known as an 'open house' is commonly held by Malaysians during all main religious festivals.