Top Five Colourful Celebrations in Malaysia

Top Five Colourful Celebrations in Malaysia
Truly, Malaysia Is A Nation of Celebrations!

Malaysians love to celebrate everything in life. The fact that our society is a hotpot of vibrant cultural diversity and religious tolerance makes it obvious that many Malaysian celebrations evolve around these rich traditions.

Two things about celebrations in Malaysia should be noted. Firstly, almost all celebrations are open to all, free for all to attend! Secondly, unlike many western celebrations, such as Christmas, most Malaysian celebrations have no fixed dates on the Georgian calendar, as they are based on the lunar or Islamic calendar. So, if you ask a Malaysian Chinese what date the coming Chinese Lunar New Year falls on, he will probably scratch his head to ponder. It is advisable to check the ‘local’ Malaysian calendar for the exact dates.

Take a look at this checklist of celebrations. Witness their amazing atmosphere, colourful vibes and delightful joy and discover why Malaysia is truly a nation of celebrations.
They call this the mardi gras of celebrations! This is a Hindu religious celebration performed with grand street processions, and smashing of coconuts, in homage to Lord Murugan’s victory over the evil spirit Soorapadam and is a much anticipated, unique and colourful festival in Malaysia. Profound pomp, mesmerising chants and rhythmic drumbeats accompany thousands of bare-footed devotees and penitents with their bodies pierced with spikes and hooks from ornate ‘kavadis’ that they carry towards the hill-top temples. It is said that the temples are situated on hill-tops as Lord Murugan’s abode is on the hill-top.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the two hotspots for Thaipusam in Malaysia are at the 272 steps leading up to the temple at Batu Caves, Selangor and at the Waterfalls Temple on the Penang island. For Hindus, it is a day of redemption and cleansing of sins. For locals and throngs of curious visitors, it is the most intense and unusual ‘two thumbs up’ experience of a lifetime.

Malaysia’s second largest racial community is Chinese. Hence, as in many Asian countries, the Chinese or Lunar New Year celebration is one of significance. The celebration stretches for 15 days, beginning with the homecoming family reunion dinner on the eve of the new year, culminating in the spring lantern festival of ‘Chap Goh Mei’ when single ladies throw mandarin oranges into the sea in hope of finding their partners.

Hence, major cities will be emptied of traffic, except for malls filled with festive sale decorations. The buzz is in the villages and homes where red is the colour of the day. New red clothes, red lanterns, red decorations and of course red ‘ang pow’ packets filled with money. Spectacular dragon and lion dances, tossing of ‘yee sang’, an arsenal of fireworks and firecracker explosions add colour and rhythm to this celebration throughout the day and night.

After a month of fasting, Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadhan and the beginning of Syawal, the 10th month of Islamic calendar. It is a time of forgiveness and blessings for friends and family. The celebration is determined by the sighting of the moon, now done universally and more scientifically. Hence, there is less anxiety and uncertainty. During this public holiday the ‘balik kampung’ phenomena is always anticipated to cloak up highways from the cities to the rural outskirts as folks head back to their hometowns to celebrate this auspicious occasion with their families. Morning communal prayers, gaiety ‘open houses’ and of course lots of scrumptious traditional Malay food are highlights as everyone look forward during this month-long Hari Raya celebration.

An unusual ancient pagan celebration that honours the spirit of the rice padi, Bambaazon, is performed by the largest ethnic tribe in Sabah, the Kadazan-Dusun, at the end of their harvest season. This tribal community annual celebration gathers villagers and padi farmers from all over the state at various venues to perform rituals and rites of cleansing and blessings. Colourful and intricate ethnic costumes are adorned by traditional dance performers. A great amount of regional tribal food, including home-made rice wines, add to the spirit of this two day celebration. Nowadays, there are even blow pipe demonstrations, sporting arm wrestling and pageants that showcase the hidden beauty of Kadazan maidens.

Meanwhile, the state of Sarawak too has its tribal version of harvest festival practised by the Dayak indigenous group. Most of the tribal rituals and rites of this festival are performed at their communal longhouses in which several families live under one roof. Ceremonial offerings to the gods of harvest are performed and usually culminates in the recital of prayers and the sacrifice of a cockerel. Apart from the tribal ceremonies, this month-long festival showcases an amazing display of tribal costumes, traditional dances, endless ethnic food and multiple open-houses. One of the most anticipated events of the festival is the Keling (King) and Kumang (Queen) Gawai pageant that culminates in the crowning of the festival’s most beautiful Queen and King.

You will surely be fascinated by these, and many more, celebrations throughout the year throughout Malaysia. Mark your calendar for Malaysian celebrations. Coincide them with your trip and get ready for perfect selfies!
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