‘Closed’ Encounters in Malaysia

‘Closed’ Encounters in Malaysia
Don’t be Caught off Guard with Public Holidays in Malaysia

Globally, January 1st is a public holiday. But why not for the northern most state of Peninsula Malaysia, Perlis? How come schools, and government departments, throughout Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and Johor are closed every Friday? Why the Good Friday holiday is only good in Sabah and Sarawak? If you ask these to a local they would probably answer you with the phrase “ Malaysia Boleh! ”. It simply means this is Malaysia and anything, well almost, is possible!
‘Closed’ encounters such as these are often and are much welcomed by locals, and millions of migrant workers, because it means ‘no work’! And if Malaysia wins the Thomas Cup tomorrow it will be definitely declared a public holiday too!

Interestingly, Malaysia is one of the top ten countries with the highest number of public holidays in the world for a long time. Depending on the year, this ranges from 17-19 official days throughout the year. Officially, the Prime Minister’s Department has the role to so call ‘gazette’ official annual public holidays just before the start of a new year. For printers and producers of calendars and diaries, meticulous checking and re-confirmation are done during the year end period to ensure no surprises occur before printing. Not surprisingly, even in this digital age printed calendars still have their important role as a valuable ‘fact-checked’ source of information for the older folks as well as the HR department!

“Sorry, we are closed today!”
Holidays in Malaysia are sometimes confusing because they are rightfully declared by the federal government and also by each state government. States such as Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor follow the Muslim workweek and thus have Fridays as the ‘Sunday’ off-day for government departments and even schools. However, for economic and commercial reasons, private companies in Johor do follow the normal workweek.

States with rulers and governors have holidays declared to celebrate their respective heads of state’s birthday too. As such, a Sultan’s birthday is a holiday in a particular state but not in another. Communities at state-boundary towns have gotten used to this peculiarity and joyfully indulge in the stately pomp and revelry.

Then there are the long ‘government’ school holidays that stretch across the calendar year with one-week, two-week and a long year-end almost two-month long break. The year-end long break was designed to accommodate the flood-prone monsoon season in most states. On the other hand, private schools and institutes of higher learning have their own semester breaks according to their programmes.

Every Malaysian loves a holiday!
Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-cultural potpourri actually ratchet up the notches in public holidays. Yes, the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians have their respective festive celebrations gazetted as public holidays every year. When schools, government departments and even private companies are ‘closed’ what do Malaysians do? Indeed, every year, during these ‘major’ festive breaks, every Malaysian rejoice as one. However, they dread the long and arduous ‘balik kampung’ exodus back to their hometowns all across the country, while those living in the cities happily gather at malls and embrace the calm of ‘deserted’ city thoroughfares.

According to the country’s labour law, if a holiday coincides with a Sunday then the following Monday is declared off-day. As such Malaysians always look forward to ‘extended’ weekends and plan diligently for longer breaks throughout the year. It is well noted that most private companies have to plan or schedule weeks ahead of an impending Chinese Lunar New Year break and decide when to ‘close’ and ‘open’ for business to coincide with auspicious dates as well as to accommodate their staff’s travel plans.

“Where’s everybody?”
Alien abduction can be ruled out when streets are deserted and shops are closed during major public holidays in Malaysia. With budget airlines and massive connectivity across the country, Malaysians are a bunch who knows how to take advantage of their deserving holidays. It is a strange phenomenon in the city of Kuala Lumpur to find crowds of migrant workers of various nationalities lingering around the malls during these long festive breaks because they have ‘no work’ and ‘nowhere to go’.

Nevertheless, it is not all despair. During these festivities, the locals and visitors are drawn to specific venues where the celebrations get into full swing. If your holiday schedule is right, you can catch the grand Thaipusam celebrations at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur and the Waterfall Temple in Penang around January-February. Or witness first-hand the pomp and pageantry of the Merdeka Day (National Day) parade in the federal government administrative city of Putrajaya on 31st August. Why not join the queue to visit ‘open houses’ of the Prime Minister and other prominent dignitaries during the mid-year Hari Raya Puasa? You will be welcomed with open arms to a memorable festive feast.

So, now you know where’s everyone when holidays come calling.

When is the next big public holiday? Or, is the Post Office closed tomorrow?

Want to discover more? Go check out the national and local holiday calendar and prepare yourself for ‘close’ encounters right here in Malaysia!
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