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home > Malaysia and Singapore > Malaysia  > Chinese Festivals 




Chinese New Year  

myMalaysiabooks brings you Chinese festivals of Malaysia and Singapore.


Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb)


Chinese New Year is Asia's most widely celebrated festival, celebrated by Chinese all over the world.

 Its a celebration for Chinese not only in Malaysia and Singapore but all over the world. Chinese New Year is the first day of  the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

 Before the old year ends, it is a custom for Chinese to spring clean or even paint their houses.



Chinese Year

Chinese New Year

Heavenly God Festival

Dongzhi or Tang Chek Festival

Nine Emperor God

Hungry Ghost Festival

Chap Goh Meh

Cheng Beng

Dragon Boat Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival



Calendars and Holidays

Chinese zodiac and horoscope

Cultural Celebrations

Chinese Celebrations


  Actual celebrations starts on the day before the new year, where family members gather for a reunion dinner. Many Chinese Malaysians will travel back to their hometown or family homes for this day. The reunion dinner is the a major celebration and gathering for the family - a once a year affair for many who have children working out of town. Many Taoists and Buddhist Chinese will go to the temple to pray for blessings for a good year.      

     Temples are also crowed in the morning of the New Year where many offer prayers to ancestors and gods and ask for blessing for a good year. On Chinese New Year day relatives and friends visit each other to offer their good wishes and it is customary to give mandarin oranges during a visit, as a token of good luck and prosperity. New year gifts of food (s.a. cookies, dates, oranges, liquor, groundnuts, etc.) are also exchange between relatives, friends and business associates. Married couples are obliged to give red packets filled with money (called Angpow in Malaysian Hokkien or Hong bao in Mandarin) to children of relatives or friends. 


     The New Year celebrations traditionally extend to 15 days, where the 15th day is the Chap Goh Meh festival. The most important festival during the 15 days of the new year, for the Hokkiens in Malaysia and Singapore, is the Festival of the Jade Emperor, celebrated on the 9th day of the new year. What Malaysians and Singaporeans normally do: 


Chinese New Year

giving ang pow


Mandarin Orange for Chinese New Year

Mandarin Orange is a must for Chinese New Year


Before Chinese New Year

Clean the house - spring cleaning.

Prepare Chinese New Year Cakes, cookies or biscuits (e.g. kueh kapit or love letters, kueh bulu, kueh bunga, Nian Gao, etc)

Chinese New Year Recipes

Shop for new clothes, curtains, Chinese New Year decoration, food, new year gifts, etc....

Stock up food for the long holidays.

Balik Kampong or go back to their family home or hometown. The family reunion dinner is held on Chinese New Year Eve. Its usually at home or at a restaurant.

Visit the temple to offer prayers.



Chinese New Year goodies

Chinese New Year

Dress up, family gather to pay respect and good wishes

Visit the temple to offer prayers

Enjoy family gathering

Visit relatives and Chinese friends, with mandarin oranges to offer new year wishes. Have open houses, invite friends and relatives usually to eat New Year cookies and celebrate the new year.

Eating and feasting on cakes and other New Year dishes

While adults give out ang pow (red packets), children receive them.

Go for holidays, see a show, dinning or shopping

New year is also a time where many gambles - usually a friendly game of cards among friends and relatives!


Cleaning the house - A traditional belief of sweeping out the ill fortune of the old year. Sweeping out is not recommended on New Year's Day for fear of sweeping away the good fortune that the new year brings.

Debts - Settling or paying off old debts and collect what is owed to you before the new year, so your fortunes are not lost and you will prosper.


Other Chinese Festivals

Chap Goh Meh (in the Hokkien dialect) is the last day of the Chinese Spring festival or New Year celebrations or 15th day of the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese normally celebrate by having a grand dinner and Buddhists and Taoist Chinese mark the day with offerings and prayers. In the old, single girls will throw tangerines into the sea  - a belief that that will bring them a good spouse......


typical offering to the Jade EmperrorFestival of the Heavenly God or Jade Emperor (9th day of the Chinese lunar calendar)     This festival starts on the early morning of the 9th day of the Chinese lunar calendar (after midnight of the 8th day). It is the most important spring festival for the Hokkiens (mainly descendents from Fujian province, China), a celebration which is celebrated widely by the Buddhist and Taoists Chinese in Malaysia. The celebration marks the birthday of the Jade Emperor or Guardian or Heavenly God, who lives in the centre of the universe. The most important offering for the Hokkien clan/ community is 'kam chia' or sugar cane. (Read story below)

      In Penang, this festival is celebrated with in a grand scale, and can be observed at the Clan Jetties, near the ferry terminal (see map of George Town). The height of celebration starts near midnight on the 8th day of the Chinese lunar calendar. Prayers and offering are made to the god in front of the homes of many Chinese in the country (Photo: typical offerings to in homes). Houses are usually brightly lit on this night. There is usually fireworks on a feast after the prayers.


One of the many legend of this celebration: Story of the Hokkien clan and prominance of the sugar can plant:
During the Song Dynasty (Mongol dynasty) most of the clans in Southern China (Fujian, Henan, Zhejiang) were heavily repressed and lived under great fear of the Mongols. The Hokkien clan were constantly at the mercy of the Mongols who attacked and hunted them, because the Hokkiens are seen a threat to the empire.
    The Hokkiens then fled to the Henan province where sugarcane plantations were in abundance. Though many were killed by the pursuing Mongols, a group of Hokkiens managed to hide themselves among the sugarcane plants. The pursuing Mongols searched the area for days but never located the remaining Hokkiens.
     The Mongols eventually gave up and returned to their base. On the ninth day of the Chinese Calendar, the Hokkiens happily emerged from their hideout praising the celestial deities for saving them and believed that the Heavenly God had protected them. Thus, from then on, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given special prominence.
    That is why the Ninth day is regarded as the day of salvation by the Hokkien community. As offering to the Heavenly God, a pair of sugarcane plants is
usually placed, one on each side of the offering table. The pair symbolises unity, cooperation and strength. Sugarcane symbolises harmony, which brings all good outcome. The straightness of the sugarcane stem to ensure that the Hokkiens become a clan of honest and sincere people; the cane stalk with multiple nodes symbolises continuous growth.

The Dongzhě Festival /Tang Chek Festival or Winter Solstice Festival 冬至

Glutinous rice balls, for Dongzhi festivalThis festival originated from China, as early as 770-476 BC.  Ancient Chinese astronomers divided the whole year into 24 solar terms according to climate changes. The Chinese also found that the Winter Solstice was the shortest daytime and longest night time in the whole year.  After winter solstice, daytime will grow increasingly longer as the sun slowly moves back to the northern hemisphere.  Hence, Winter Solstice is a solar term in Chinese lunar calendar and often falls on December 22 or 23 (solar calendar) every year.

The festival that fall on this date is known as Dongzhi Festival or Tang Chek (in Hokkien) .  During the Tang and Song Dynasties, ancestor worship was performed on the Winter Solstice. Today this tradition of celebrating Winter Solstice is a cultural practice for many Chinese worldwide and it is considered as an auspicious celebration.

     In Malaysia and Singapore, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated as family get together event.  It is the time where families gather to make and eat tangyuan (湯圓) or balls of glutinuous rice balls, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice which is grounded to a flour and then coloured.  The flour balls may be plain or stuffed (with a sweet bean paste or ground nuts). They are cooked in a sweet light syrup or savoury broth. Some Chinese Taoist and Buddhist will make tangyuan offering to their ancestors on this day. Many Chinese also consider this a cultural event, a time for a family gathering.


Nine Emperror Gods Festival, PenangFestival 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. 

Hungry Ghost Festival

Chinese Opera, Hungry Ghost Festival, MalaysiaThe Hungry Ghost Festival is linked to the Chinese practice of ancestor worship. According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month of the lunar calendar is the time when restless spirits of the dead roam the earth.
     Many temples will hold prayer ceremonies throughout the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival (Phor Thor) to appease the spirits. Chinese households will pray and make offerings of food and faux money, to 'ghosts' and their ancestors to use in the afterlife, often particularly on the 15th day of this lunar month, which is the Yu Lan or Hungry Ghost Festival.
     In many major towns/places of Malaysia such as, Kuala Lumpur, PJ, Penang, Johor Bahru, etc, one of the main highlights of the
festival is the performance of Chinese operas, staged on temporary wooden stages.

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.  To commemorate the occasion, boats were decorated with dragon heads on their bows.

     This day falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.The tradition of making dumplings (called 'chang')is celebrated by the Chinese community in Malaysia with the offering of the dumplings to the gods and their ancestors. 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.

Cheng Beng (April)     This event falls on the third month of the lunar calendar and usually coincides with April. It is the Chinese equivalent of All Souls’ Day. During this month, the Chinese will visit the cemeteries to clean the ancestral graves and make offerings to the spirits of their departed loved ones.

Mid-autumn festival or Moon Cake festival (15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar)  - celebrated by the Chinese to commemorate the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty in Ancient China.  

In Malaysia, Singapore and many Asian countries, shops sell a variety of mooncakes which are often offered during prayers to the moon fairy or ancesters. These cakes are also exchanged as gifts among relatives and friends during the month before the festival.

In Malaysia and Singapore, this is also the lantern festival. Children would light colourful lanterns in the shape of animals or other fun objects during the night.

In some parts of Malaysia a lantern procession or display is held to mark this day.

How to make moon cake at our Chinese Cookies page

Moon cakes, Mid-Autumn Festival

Moon Cake Biscuits

small mooncake biscuits for mid-autumn festival

children holding lanterns, lantern festival, Malaysia






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