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Malaysia has a number of festivals and celebrations, most of which are either religious or cultural in origin, and are swathed in traditions and rituals.
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Event: Pongal Festival
Date: 15th January
Location: Penang (Little India)
Pongal is a Hindu “thanksgiving” festival dedicated to the Sun God Surya. The term pongal literally means “boiling over”. This refers to pots of rice and milk which are heated up until they boil over. The moment the mixture spills people shout out “Ponggalo Pongo”
The festival lasts for four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the fourth day of Thai.
Date: 24th January
Location: Penang/ Batu Caves KL
Thaipusam is an annual Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai and commemorates the Lord Muruga, a hindu deity.
Over the course if three days there are many celebrations around Batu cave in Kuala Lumpur and Little India in George Town Penang. With highlights including a procession with a statue to Lord Muruga on a silver chariot. Throughout the festival there are many colorful stalls lining the streets. Expect large crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands!
Event: Chinese New Year
Date: 7th – 8th February
Chinese New Year is usually celebrated in the month of February but the date changes within February every year.
A countdown to Chinese New Year takes place in the days beforehand. Then on New Years there’s a large celebration involving many street parades and fireworks
Event: Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Festival
Date: 11st – 13th March
Location: Persisiran Tasik Putrajaya, Precinct 2, Putrajaya
Get high at the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, an annual event in Kuala Lumpur that really makes you sit up and take notice.
A great way to snap some great travel photos, it takes place near the Putrajaya Lake and is reminiscent of New York’s Adirondack Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Expect to see lots of colourful, teardrop-shaped balloons but there are also some outrageous, quirkily-shaped ones.
Previous participating hot air balloons have included one shaped like Darth Vader’s head, a cat, Doraemon, a clown, a pink elephant’s head and even one shaped like a giant peacock.
Event: Harvest Festival
Date: 30 – 31st May
Location: Sabah dan Labuan only
Traditionally Known as Pesta Ka’amatan in Sabah. In Penang it’s a Sikh festival which is also celebrated to mark the Rice Harvest.
Singing and dancing are the main celebrations. Open houses are popular and give you an insight into what a traditional households are like.
Event: Wesak Day
Date: 21st May
Devotees flock to Buddhist temples to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.
From early morning candle lit processions are common place along with free meals along streets and Monks chanting sacred sutras all day.
Event: Jazz Festival
Date: 26th – 29th May
Location: University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur
International & national jazz musicians come to play at many establishments.
The main venue is usually at the Bayview Beach Resort.
Event: Dragon Boat Festival
Date: 28th – 29th May
Location: Teluk Bahang Dam, Penang
A recently new sport in Penang Dragon boat racing can be a good and exciting spectator sport.
Colorful team boats race to a finish line with a mixture of speed, discipline and teamwork.
Event: Gawai Dayak Festival
Date: 1st – 2nd June
Gawai Dayak is a harvest festival celebrated by Sarawaks indigenous people.
People in traditional costumes make ceremonial offerings to the gods of rice and prosperity.
Event: Ramadhan Bazaar
Date: 6th June
During Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month) the streets around Malaysia’s towns are filled with with night stalls selling a huge variety of food and shopping bargains.
Event: Penang Durian Festival
Date: 9st June – 16th July
Location: George Town, Penang
The huge sticky fruit known as Durian is celebrated during this period. Some of Penang’s most prized durian fruits are exhibited here.
During the festival there will be plenty of occasions to try the “King of Fruits”.
Event: Nuzul Al-Quran
Date: 22th June
Location: Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Selangor , Terengganu and Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan) only
On the 17th day of Ramadan there is a celebration to commemorate the day Prophet Mohammed first received the Scriptures from Heaven. This is a national public holiday.
Event: Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Date: 6th – 7th July
Also known as Hari Raya Puasa, it marks the culmination of Ramadhan, during which Muslims the world over fast for a whole month.
Traditional Malay food such as rendang, ketupat, and lemang is served.
This is also a time to forgive and forget past quarrels, where family members ask for forgiveness from friends and family members.
Event: George Town Festival
Date: 29th July – 28th August
Location: George Town, Penang
A month long cultural, theatrical and musical performances celebrating Penang’s prized heritage town.
Event: Rainforest World Music Festival
Date: 5th – 7th August
Location: Kuching, Sarawak
An annual three day music festival celebrating the diversity in world music.
With daytime workshops, craft fairs and world food stalls there’s plenty to do. In the evening musical acts from all over the world perform on stage.
Event: Hungry Ghost Festival
Date: 17th August
Falling on the seventh lunar month it is believed that the gates of hell are thrown open for spirits from the netherworld to roam freely in search of food.
Makeshift altars are erected on streets where giant joss sticks are lit and food is offered to appease the gods.
Opera and puppet shows are also conducted on a nightly bases.
This is primarily a Chinese community based celebration in Malaysia.
Event: Malaysia Independence Day
Date: 31st August
Commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya from the British in 1957, August 31 holds a special place in the hearts of all Malaysians.
The biggest celebration of the event takes place annually at Merdeka Square, or more commonly known as Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
Event: Nine Emperor Gods Festival
Date: 1st October
Location: Penang/ Nationwide
Celebrating when the spirits of the Nine Gods descend to earth by possessing spirit mediums by putting them in a trance.
Throughout the festival activities like skewering and fire walking ceremonies are carried out.
Event: Navratri Festival
Date: 1st – 11st October
A Hindu festival where devotees pray to the Goddess Thurga, Laxmi and Sarawathy for power, wealth and education. There’s also a chariot procession.
Date: 29th October
Location: Nationwide except Sarawak
A colorful festival also known as “The Festival of Lights” is celebrated with many oil lamps.
This is to thank the gods for happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth.
Event: Penang Bridge Marathon
Date: 27th November
Location: Penang Bridge (1st Bridge)
The Penang International Marathon has been held ever year since 1985.
Covering 13.5km across one of South East Asia’s longest bridges it attracts over 34,000 participants.
Event: Christmas Eve
Date: 25th December
A religious festival to mark the birth of Jesus Christ for Christians, Christmas in Malaysia is celebrated like everywhere else in the world.
However, Christmas is also viewed as a universal celebration by many, one that that carries a secular rather than religious meaning.
Even without the traditional “white Christmas”, the celebrations carry on with a kaleidoscope of lights, endless Christmas displays, and crazy shopping deals for all!
Event: New Year Countdown
Date: 31st December
Location: See below
A New Year countdown is held every year at Esplanade Penang, Queensbay Mall and Penang Pesta.
Live bands play along with many performances as the countdown to the New Year is marked in celebration.
A huge fireworks display is then held for all to enjoy.