Sue is a mother and grandmother living in sunny Malaysia. Like many Malaysians, she is passionate about food.
Top 10 Festivals And Holidays In Malaysia
A festival in Malaysia is a holiday celebrated by everyone irrespective of race or religion. We have "Open House" to welcome family and friends during Hari Raya, Chinese New year and Deepavali.
The Prime Minister, his cabinet ministers and even politicians hold "Open House" during these festivals where anyone can attend. Most foreign tourists love to attend these events to get a glimpse of our unique culture and cuisine.
# 1. Hari Raya Puasa
Welcome the end of fasting
This is the most important festival in Malaysia for the Muslims. It marks the end of a month of fasting, Ramadhan and is known as Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
The beginning of this holiday is determined by the sighting of the new moon at strategic spots of the country. The celebration falls on the first day of the Muslim calendar, Syawal.
As in any festival in Malaysia, there are traditional dishes associated with Hari Raya Aidil Fithri. One popular dish served in many homes is the rendang with ketupat or lemang.
The rendang is a semi-dry spicy dish cooked in spices, coconut milk. The thick gravy is characterized by the lightly fried grated coconut. Beef rendang is the most popular choice though chicken and lamb can also be used.
Hari Raya Puasa is also an occasion when anyone can visit the Prime Minister when he holds an "Open House". This can be at his official residence or sometimes at a hotel.
Lemang Stall - Delicious glutinous rice eaten with beef rendang
Lemang is made of glutinous rice and coconut milk. It is cooked in a hollow bamboo stick lined with banana leaves over an open fire for a few hours. During the last weeks before the Hari Raya festival, many stalls can be seen offering these lemang for sale.
Open house will not be complete without these hari raya cookies
Feasts and festivals are a feature of all major religions
# 2. Chinese New Year
Festival to mark the beginning of the Chinese lunar calendar
With the Chinese making up the second largest community, Chinese New Year is celebrated on a grand scale as it is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.
Chinese New Year is a 15 day celebration with the eve of Chinese New Year being the most important day. It is a time for families to have their annual reunion dinner. Shops and offices will be closed early to allow workers to be home for this important festive celebration.
The red "ang pau" is an important Chinese New Year tradition enjoyed by the children during this festive holiday.
The lion dance is a must see display with many acrobatic stunts performed by the lion dance troops. Many shopping malls will have a lion dance display at some time during the fifteen day celebration.
Lion Dance For Chinese New Year
Malaysian Festivals Stamp
Wonderful way to remember Malaysian festivals
Pos Malaysia is launching a new set of stamps to commemorate the various festivals celebrated by Malaysians. The five festivals featured in this second series include Hari Raya Haji, Mid-Autumn Festival, Thaipusam, Kaul Festival and Regatta Lepa.
The first series of Malaysian Festivals Stamps featured Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Tadau Kaamatan and Gawai Festival.
Full sheets containing 20 stamps can be purchased for RM12 each at all Pos Malaysia outlets while stocks last. Stamp collectors may want to get the stamp set complete with folders. Folders are sold for RM5.50 each, and a full set consisting of a folder, brochure, first-day cover and all five stamp sheets will be sold for RM69 from PostMe.com.my
# 3. Deepavali Or Diwali
Important Hindu festival
Deepavali or Diwali is a festival celebrated by the Indian community. Popularly known as the festival of lights, Diwali falls between October and November. It marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
As in other festivals in Malaysia, Indian families hold open houses where family and friends come to visit and join in the celebration. An important tradition is kolam drawing. It is seen not only in homes but also in office buildings and shopping malls.
Kolam drawing is a form of sand painting using rice flour to draw geometric designs on the floor. Rice flour is used to invite birds and other small creatures to eat it thus signifying a welcome to welcome visitors and also Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity.
# 4. Hari Raya Haji
An important religious festival for the Muslims
Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Aidiladha is an important religious festival and holiday for Muslims. In Malaysia, Muslims join their brethren worldwide to remember Ibrahim (Abraham)'s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of obedience to God.
Muslims will try to make a pilgrimage to Mecca during this time. Muslims who are not in Mecca celebrate this festival in Malaysia with morning prayers at the mosque.
For this festival a cow is often slaughtered in the mosque or village compound and the meat divided into three parts. One share is kept by the family, another share given to friends and neighbors while a share is distributed the poor.
Kaaba At Mecca - 1899 Wood Engraving
# 5. Moon Cake Festival
Sweet moon cakes and lanterns to celebrate this festival
Moon cake festival is widely celebrated by the Chinese community. Known also as the Mid-Autumn Festival it falls on the fifteenth day of the eight month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This is usually around September.
Moon cake festival is a festive holiday with many folklores. Some tell of the famous Chinese archer and his wife who now lives on the moon. Others tell of the hidden message in the moon cakes when the Mongolians were ruling China. Moon cakes are of course the number one delicacy during this festival. Boxes of this sweet pastry are given as gifts to family, friends and business acquaintances.
Moon cake festival would not be complete without the brightly lit lanterns. It is a festival enjoyed by kids of all ages. Many neighborhoods organize a gathering where the children can display their multi-colored and fascinating lantern designs.
# 6. Thaipusam
Hindu religious festival
Thaipusam is a religious festival in Malaysia celebrated by Hindus. During this festival holiday, devotees throng the Hindu temples to pay homage to their gods.
The top tourist place to visit at this time is the Batu Caves, a limestone hill located north of Kuala Lumpur. Thousands of devotees visit this limestone hill to pay homage to the Hindu god, Lord Murugan.
Many do penance or fulfill their vows by carrying heavy structures or kavadis up the 272 rock steps to the limestone caves.
Hindus Celebrating Thaipusam Fesitval
# 7. Christmas
A Christian festival celebrated by many
There are many Christians living in Malaysia so this is another festival and holiday celebrated widely in our own unique way. With our hot Malaysian weather, you won't see a white Christmas but you can experience the Christmas festivities with the malls decked out in beautiful Christmas decorations, carol singing and you can still enjoy a Christmas turkey complete with stuffing.
As in all other festivals, those who celebrate Christmas have "open houses" where they invite their friends and colleagues to their homes to join in the celebration.
"Open House" is synonymous with good food special for that particular festival. At Christmas "Open House" you will also enjoy dishes like satay, rendang and other Malaysian delicacies. With the strong Portuguese settlement in Melaka you will also see a unique Christmas celebration.
# 8. Wesak Day
Religious festival for Buddhists
Wesak is celebrated by the those of the Buddhist faith. Buddhists celebrate the birthday, enlightenment and death of their founder, Gautama Buddha.
One of the highlights of this festival in Malaysia is the beautiful float procession usually of the statue of Buddha. Devotees spend weeks decorating the float as well as the temple grounds as the temple would be filled with devotees to attend dharma talks, meditations and enjoy vegetarian food.
# 9. Hari Gawai
A celebration to mark the end of harvest
Hari Gawai is a festival celebrated by the native people collectively called the Dayaks who live in Sarawak. This marks the end of the harvesting season.
Many Sarawakans who are working in other parts of Malaysia would make plans to return home to take part in this celebration as this is a big festival and holiday for the Dayaks.
There is much singing, dancing and the drinking of the local rice wine in their long houses. It is a reminder of their rich cultural heritage as they dress in their traditional costumes and perform their dances.
# 10. Vaisakhi
A Sikh festival and holiday
Vaisakhi which falls on 14th April is the celebration of the new year by the Sikh community in Malaysia. The Sikh community is a close knit one and this is the most important festival and holiday in their calendar.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia recognized that the Sikhs are also important citizens of Malaysian. Recently he declared that all government servants from the Sikh community get an unrecorded holiday for Vaisakhi beginning next year, 2013.