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home > Malaysia and Singapore > Malaysia > Holidays and Celebrations > Religious  




Religious Holidays and Celebrations in Malaysia and Singapore

continued from Holidays and Celebrations of Malaysia and Singapore.


selamat hari raya from


Chinee Temple


Wesak Day or Vesak Day (May)     Buddhists pay homage to Buddha by commemorating his birth, death and enlightenment on this day. On this day Buddhist throughout the country hold prayers at Buddhist and Chinese temples throughout the country in Malaysia and Singapore.

     Many temples serve free food (especially to the less fortunate) or sell vegetarian food during the day. This is a major celebration for many of the Chinese Malaysians and Singaporeans who are mainly Buddhists and some of the Indians in the two countries.

     At temples, you can see devotees offering prayers and conducting rituals such as 'bathing of Buddha'. Check with tourism Malaysia and temple for processions which are sometimes held in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Seremban, Melaka and George Town. These are usually beautifully decorated floats and candle light procession.


chinese opera in MalaysiaFestival of the Nine Emperor Gods (according to lunar calendar - Sept/Oct)     This festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth moon in the Chinese lunar calendar.  The Nine Emperor Gods are spiritual mediums believed to dwell in the stars in heaven. On the eve of the ninth moon, temples of the Deities hold a ceremony to welcome the gods.  The rituals during the festival acts as a channel between celestial beings and humans for the salvation and protection of mankind. The Gods are believed to travel through the waterways so processions are held from temples to the seashore or river.  The celebration lasts for 9 days. Many devotees throng to the temples to offer prayers and follow a vegetarian diet during this period. On the 9th day ends usually with a fire-walking ritual. In Penang temples are crowded and streets are lined with stalls selling praying items of vegetarian food.  Other Chinese festivals here....


Chang - dumpling ; mymalaysiabooksDragon Boat Festival / Chang Festival   (according to lunar calendar - June/July)    This festival marks the death of a Chinese poet and scholar Qu Yuan who drowned in 296 BC in Hunan province in China . When people heard of his disappearance, they scoured the river in boats to rescue him, beating their drums to scare off the fishes from nibbling at his body. Unable to find his body, they made glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw them into the river in the hope that the fishes would eat these dumplings instead of his remains. This day falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. To commemorate the occasion, boats were decorated with dragon heads on their bows. The tradition of making dumplings (called 'chang')is celebrated by the Chinese community in Malaysia with the offering of the dumplings to the gods. The festival is celebrated in Penang annually with an international dragon boat competition which is immensely popular and attracts participants from all over the world.

More Chinese Festivals HERE



Hari Raya Puasa (Aidilfitri) (according to Muslim calendar)    This is the first day of the month following Ramadan (a month of fasting and abstinence for Muslims). The celebration begins after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan when Muslims break their daily fast. If the crescent appears, the next day is declared Hari Raya Aidilfitri. The day begins with Muslims praying in mosques early in the morning followed by visits to the graveyards of loved ones. In Malaysia, many Muslims hold ‘open houses’ for relatives and friends of all races.

Stalls selling food during Ramadan

Malay lady selling clothes during Ramadan, Kedah    Homes are brightly lit with lamps and lights during this celebration. Muslims prepare a variety of cakes and food such as ketupat (rice cakes) and rendang (a dry curry) during this festival. This is a major celebration for many Malays who will travel back to their family homes for a gathering. (Photo: food stalls seen in the streets during Ramadan)

     Visitors in Malaysia can enjoy Malaysian food one month long - walk should take a walk round the numerous stalls that line the streets of town especially from late afternoon to night. A great place to sample Malay or Muslim cuisines, fruits and snacks.


Masjid Zahir, Alor Setar Kedah, malaysiaHari Raya Haji (Adiladha)    This celebration of sacrifice comes two months and ten days after Hari Raya Puasa. On this day, after Salat al-'Eid (prayers), Muslims sacrifice an animal: a ram, goat, sheep, cow or camel.  The meat is divided into three parts, one part distributed among the poor and needy, second part distributed among relatives and friends and third part is used by the family.  This is also a major holiday for Muslims to visit each other and give gifts to the children.  Adiladha is celebrated on the 10th of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and again depends upon the crescent sighting for the first of the month.  Many Muslim make their pilgrimage to Mecca during this period.



Deepavali (November)     Deepavali (or Diwali) is the Festival of Lights which celebrated during the 7th month of the Hindu calendar (usually October or November). Hindus adorn their homes with dozens of lights or oil lamps, called vikku, to signify the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It is celebrated as the day the evil Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. In Malaysia, it is celebrated by many Malaysian Indians who are Hindus. Malaysians of other religion will visit friends of Hindu faith to extend good wishes and to partake of the feasting and festivity. This is a major celebration for many Hindus in Malaysia, who will also hold ‘open houses’.


Thaipusam  (January/ February)


On this day, Hindus pay homage to Lord Muruga and celebrations normally stretch over two to three days with drums and music played throughout the day and sometimes into the night.

In Malaysia and Singapore, you will see thousands of devotees at Hindu temples. A prominent feature of the festival is the carrying of kavadis after sunset on the eve of Thaipusam. This ritual is done as a form of penance or to keep a promise for a prayer fulfilled. The kavadis are wooden or steel structures gaily decorated with coloured paper, fragrant flowers and fresh fruits. Some devotees pierce their cheeks, tongues, bodies or foreheads with metal needles or hooks while in a trance. It’s an incredible sight which you have to see to believe!

   Best place to see this is at Batu Caves (KL/ Selangor); Penang (Pulau Pinang); Sungai Petani (Kedah) and Ipoh (Perak). It is probably the most popular festival for the Indian community in Malaysia - enjoyed by tourists and devotees. This Hindu festival is celebrated mainly by the Tamils in Malaysia. But do not be surprise if you see some Chinese participating in the rituals of this celebration


Thaipusam, devotee carring kavadi, Malaysia


Watch THAIPUSAM on Video


Thaipusam, at Hindu Indian Temple

Thaipusam in Malaysia, devotee



Christmas (25 December)    Christmas is a public holiday nationwide and church services or masses are held on the eve or on Christmas Day. Though a family celebration, Malaysian Christians may hold ‘open houses’ for friends or host Christmas parties.


Valentine's day or St. Valentine's Day falls on February 14 - Malaysian and Singaporean like all the world over celebrate the day not as a religious event - or at least take this day as an day to express their appreciation for those the love.  Its a traditional day on which lovers let each other know about their love by sending Valentine's cards, flowers, chocolates or small gifts, often anonymous. The history of Valentine's day can be traced back to a Catholic Church feast day, in honour of Saint Valentine. The associations of this day with romantic love is believed to have originated during the Middle Ages. Shopping for Valentine?

More on Holidays in Malaysia and Singapore

Cultural Celebrations

Religious Observations and Festivals

Chinese Festivals and Celebrations

Holidays in Malaysia

Where to stay in Malaysia

Where to stay in Singapore

Culture and Lifestyle Malaysia






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