Malaysia’s multiculturalism means an abundance of cultural and religious festivals throughout the year. Indeed, many who come here are often surprised at the sheer number of public holidays that the country has. Some are federal public holidays, meaning the whole of Malaysia will get the day off while others are only public holidays in certain states. Good Friday for example, is not a federal holiday but is instead a state holiday for Sarawak.
The country celebrates its National Day on August 31st, that marks the independence from the then Federation of Malay from British colonial rule. However, in Sabah it is celebrated on the 16th of September to honour the date in 1963 when Sabah and Sarawak joined the federation.
Of all the festivals in Malaysia, the arguable three biggest celebrations are the Hari Raya Puasa (also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri), Chinese New Year and Deepavali, emblematic of the three largest ethnic groups in Malaysia.For Muslims, the most celebrated holiday is the Hari Raya Puasa, which marks the end of the Ramadan fasting month. For this celebration, the country has two days of public holiday though many often take leave for the entire week as they return to their hometowns for celebrations. Hari Raya Puasa is the Malay equivalent of Eid Ul-Fitr and is celebrated along with the rest of the Muslim world.
Likewise, Chinese New Year in Malaysia is celebrated in a similar fashion. While actually lasting 15 days, the nationwide public holiday is only for the first two days of the Chinese New Year, although like Hari Raya Puasa, many will return home for celebrations with family. As the name suggests, the celebrations mark the new year in the Chinese lunar calendar and is very much a family oriented celebration.
The largest Hindu celebration in Malaysia would be Deepavali or Diwali, popularly known as the ‘festival of lights’, a celebration to commemorate the triumph of good over evil. During the festival, oil lamps are lighted at night and celebrations resemble traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent.
These three celebrations are grand affairs, often marked with bright colours, loud noises, and lively revelry. Those visiting during the celebrations will be treated to a whirlwind of colours, smells, tastes and music. Not to mention numerous open houses organised by the respective communities.
Other notable celebrations would include Thaipusam (a unique Tamil festival that entails rituals such as going into a trance-like state and piercing the body with hooks), Qing Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day for the Chinese, the Buddist Wesak Day, Awal Muharram (the Islamic New Year) and the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday. Not to be remiss, Christmas is also a notable celebration in Malaysia and recognised as a national holiday.
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