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home > Malaysia and Singapore > Malaysia > Holidays and Celebrations > Cultural  

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Cultural Holidays and Celebrations in Malaysia and Singapore

myMalaysiabook shares with you the numerous cultural festivals of Malaysia and Singapore. The major cultural groups are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Thais, Sikhs, Punjabis, Burmese and others



Chinese New Year  (Jan/Feb)   This is the first day of  the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It is a custom for Chinese to spring clean or even paint their houses before the new year. 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.

Receiving red packets on Chinese New YearOn New Year’s day relatives and friends visit each other and it is customary to give mandarin oranges during a visit, as a token of good luck and prosperity. Married couples are obliged to give red packets filled with money (called ‘Angpow’) 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.         

There are numerous other Chinese festivities that are observed or celebrated by the Chinese communities in Malaysia and Singapore. Some are of cultural origin while others are religious observations celebrated by mainly Chinese communities in the two countries. 

Chinese Zodiac and Horoscope



Festival 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.

more on Nine Emperor God Festival here

All Details on Chinese New Year and these Chinese celebrations here.

Chinese New Year cake and cookie recipes


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 Celebrations and Festivals



Hari Raya Adilfitri and Hari Raya Haji are celebrated by the Muslims and the Malay communities in Malaysia and Singapore

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).  snacks.

Hari Raya Haji (Adiladha)    This celebration of sacrifice comes two months and ten days after Hari Raya Puasa.

Details at Muslim Religious Holidays of Malaysia and Singapore

2009 Muslim Calendar of Events



The Indian communities are mainly Hindus, Christians or Buddhist.

Deepavali and Thaipusam are religious observations/Hindu festival celebrated mainly by the Hindus and largely Indian community.


Deepavali / Diwali (November)     Deepavali (or Diwali) is the Festival of Lights which celebrated during the 7th month of the Hindu calendar (usually October or November).

Thaipusam  (January/ February)    On this day, Hindus pay homage to Lord Muruga.

Details of these Hindu festivals at Religious Holidays of Malaysia and Singapore



Onam is an annual harvest festival, celebrated mainly in Kerala, but is also celebrated by the Malayalee Indians in Malaysia. It is falls during the month of Chingam (August-September), the first month of the Malayalam calendar and lasts for ten days. Though essentially a harvest festival of Malayalis,, it is mythologically linked to Malayali-Hindu folktales. In Malaysia, it is celebrated with traditional fervour with visit to temples, family gatherings and gifting of gifts and merry making.



Wesak (May) is also celebrated by Buddhist Indians in Malaysia

Christmas (25 Dec) is a public holiday nationwide.
Details of these Hindu festivals at Religious Holidays of Malaysia and Singapore


Bathing the Buddha - Wesak DayWesak 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. 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.



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?


Gawai Dayak - This celebration starts on 1st June - It is the time when the native, Dayaks of Sarawak mark the end of the rice harvest and ushers in another year of bountiful goodness. Locals dresses in traditional costumes while the elders perform traditional rites. This party and continous celebrations is throughout the month of June.
Visitors to Sarawak at this time will get an exciting and excellent opportunity to learn about life at the longhouse, if they visit the place.

(Dayak is a collective name for the natives races in Sarawak, that is, the Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut and others)

The Kaamatan Festival (May) is an annual event in the cultural life of the Kadazandusuns of Sabah. The festival is a celebration of Inter-Creations relationship; it embodies appeasing, purification and restoration, re-union of benevolent spirits, and thanksgiving to the Creator.
The word Kaamatan is derived from the root word tomot, a Kadazandusun term for harvest. Kaamatan here refers to the paddy-harvesting period, involving a series of traditional rituals culminating finally to the Kaamatan (harvest) festival.


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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