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Home > Cultures & Heritage > Festivals

 
Festivals and celebrations in Malaysia



Chinese New Year (January / Febraury)
The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new lunar year; thus it falls on a different date each year.  It can be as early as December or as late as March, though it usually falls in January or February.

In old times, the New Year was about the only holiday the lower classed had.  To this day, stores are shut for several days and businesses come to a standstill while boss and worker hold family reunions, enjoy huge feasts, gamble a little "for luck" (unless they lose!) and visit relatives and friends.

At the stroke of midnight, some parts of the large towns burst into a cacophony of fireworks.  Fire crackers are supposed to drive out evil spirits.  They also entertain small boys, not excluding fathers.

On New Year's Day, when visitors come to each time a particularly respected guest makes his way up the garden path.  By the second or third day supplies are mercifully exhausted.


Acrobatic troupes bearing a pair of majestic lion heads are invited into private houses and shop houses to bless the premises.

Chap Goh Mei (January / February)
Literally the fifteenth Day after the Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei fulfill the function of Twelfth Night after Christmas - it is the official end of the festivities, on a full moon night.

Modern-day Chap Goh Mei is a family dinner.  Many people hang out red lanterns, or the fireworks bought for the New Year.  A special dinner is cooked.

At temples, a troupe of medium may give display of "fire-walking."  Under the protection of a deity, the participants run or walk, barefoot, up and down a ten-foot long pit of burning charcoal.  One may lie down full length, unscorched, and the othrs walk over him.

Thaiponggal (January)
Thaiponggal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamil Hindus  in Malaysia; it is fixed according to the Hindu calendar.  Farmer rise while it is still dark, and cook some of the newly harvested grain to present it to the sun at dawn.  This is the ponggal.

Some urban families have adapted this ritual to their living conditions.  The family rises, bathes and gets dressed before dawn, without using any light.  When all are ready in their best clothes, they assemble around a display of fruit and flowers.  Lamps are lit.  The first sight in the morning must be a vision of natural beauty.  Dawn rises, and a vegetarian breakfast is enjoyed by all.



Traditionally, to express thanks to the gods for a good harvest, Tamil Hindus make offerings of rice on Thaiponggal.
Thaipusam (January / February)
This festival is celebrated in the streets, with all the noise and excitement of a carnival.

The day is consecrated to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan, with the fulfillment of vows made to him during the year.

Devotees march in a long, colorful procession.  Libations of milk and honey are made to the god and colorful displays of flowers and fruit are carried.

Those redeeming vows carry kavadi, fancifully decorated structures which are supported by the devotee's body; literally so - a kavadi may be pinned up by skewers inserted into the bearer's back and arms or attached to his flesh by penance he may have skewers stuck through his cheeks or tongue.

The amazing part of a kavadi procession is not how seemingly easily the entranced penitents carry their burdens, but the fact that half an hour after the event they have neither wounds nor swellings on their bodies!

Hari Raya Puasa
This marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.  Houses are cleaned and given a new coat of paint, new curtains made, new clothes sewn, and huge quantities of special foods are prepared.

In the morning of Hari Raya, the men and boys go to mosque for prayers after which families visit the graves of departed loved ones.  The rest of the day is spent visiting the homes of friends and relatives where huge quantities of food is pressed on all.


Hari Raya Puasa provides an opportunity for relatives and friends to meet and catch up with each other over delightful cookies and cakes.
Hari Raya Haji
This festival commemorates Abrahim's animal sacrifice to God on place of his son , Ismail.  The men attend the Sembahyang Hari Raya Haji service at the mosque, after which animal sacrifices are performed by those who wish to do so.

For Moslems performing the haj, or pilgrimage, in Mecca, prayers offered on this day mark the end of the pilgrimage.

 



Hari Raya Haji is also known as Hari Raya Korban.  Moslems offer animal sacrifices, usually sheep, the fresh of which is distributed to the poor.
Ma'al Hijrah
The anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina, Ma'al Hijrah is the effective beginning of Islam as a separate religion.  It counts as the New Year in Moslem countries.

According to this reckoning, 1989 was the year 1409H until the date of Ma'al Hijrah.  The year 1410H started on August 3, which is also the first day of month of Muharam.

Prophet Mohammed's Birthday
The bithday of the founder of Islam, Prophet Mohammed, is commemorated by the Mosllems.  It falls on the twelfth day of the month of Rabiulawal or, in 1989, on October 12.  As a public holiday, Prophet Mohammed's birthday is celebrated with special prayers, processions and religious rallies.

 

 

 




 

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