Booking a trip to Malaysia soon? Make sure you do it (or don’t) during these Malay holidays! If your flight hits a public holiday, you might need to pay more and spend more on accommodation.
On the other hand, If you want to truly explore Malaysia, you’ll like to experience the country at its best – usually during these holidays. Malaysian public holidays are something to behold, and those who choose to come to see them will be rewarded with a unique experience!
Check out this list of public holidays in Malaysia that you wouldn’t want to miss!
Malay Holidays – Public Holidays In Malaysia To Watch Out For
New Year’s Day
As with most of the world, New Year’s Day, or January 1, is celebrated as one of the public holidays in Malaysia. As Malaysia itself follows the western calendar, it makes sense that Malaysians love to celebrate this day too!
Offices and most shops are closed throughout the country. Malaysians hold their new year celebrations much like the rest of the world: with food, drinks, friends, family, and fireworks! Clubs and bars also typically host events to mark the occasion.
Some Malaysians prefer a quieter way to approach the new year – they go to parks or on a hike to get away from the noise of the celebrations, especially if they live near Kuala Lumpur or any major city.
Chinese New Year
One of the most popular Malaysian public holidays is Chinese New Year, celebrated between January and February. With nearly a third of the population claiming Chinese descent, it’s no surprise that Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Malaysia!
The January-to-February timeline of the Chinese New Year’s Day is because the Chinese Lunar Calendar runs differently from the international standard, the Gregorian calendar.
This new year’s festival has enormous religious and cultural significance in this Southeast Asian nation. During Lunar New Year’s Day, Chinese families come together for a reunion feast, and elders hand out red envelopes filled with money (called ang pao) to children. It is a festival of plenty, and the Malaysian Chinese celebrate it in style!
Maulidur Rasul (M awlid)
Maulidur rasul, also known as Mawlid in Malaysia, is one of the most important holidays for Malaysian Muslims. It is a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and with Malaysia being predominantly Muslim, it follows why this is such an important event!
Mawlid is celebrated as one of Malaysia’s public holidays and is observed by Sunni and Shia Muslims in the country. The celebration typically occurs on the 12th day of Rabi’al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar.
As far as holidays go, this one is pretty big, as Malaysian Muslims would attend large-scale celebrations organized by local communities and temples. Thousands of people come together to celebrate the life and teaching of the Muslim Prophet.
Some Malaysian Muslims choose to observe this day with more introspection. Many Malaysian Muslims observe Mawlid by fasting and reading the Quran. Children are dressed in bright colors and given small gifts to celebrate the occasion, too!
One of the main holy days in Malaysia is Thaipusam – a Hindi festival celebrated in Malaysia and other countries with a massive Hindu population. Given that a significant number of people in most states in Malaysia are Hindu, it makes sense why this is one of the public holidays!
This festival commemorates Goddess Parvati giving her son, Lord Murugan, a divine spear to defeat the evil demon Soorapadman to restore prosperity and well-being to humanity.
Malaysians celebrate Thaipusam in very unique ways. One ritual is carrying a kavadi – a milk vessel – on their heads, going up a massive staircase in the Batu Caves. Many Hindu men who celebrate Thaipusam are pierced with skewers and needles as they climb. No, really.
Devotees measure themselves by their resistance to pain and the amount of their willpower. Days before the quest takes place, they offer a sacrifice by sticking to a particular diet, remaining celibate, and the most religious ones even refuse worldly pleasures entirely!
Like most of the world, Malaysia also considers May 1 as Labor Day, one of its major public holidays. It is a day when we commemorate the achievements of the labor movement and recognize the hard work that skilled and non-skilled workers do.
Labor Day celebrations began in Malaysia when the late Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, declared May 1 one of Malaysia’s public holidays.
Back then, this announcement was viewed as revolutionary. However, it was Malaysia’s first recognition of workers’ contribution to society. It also showed that the country was willing to work with the International Labour Organization.
Vesak Day, also known as Buddha Day or Buddha’s Birthday, is celebrated by many people in Malaysia. There are over 5 million Buddhists in Malaysia, making this one of the most important holidays in the country!
It marks the day of Gautama Buddha’s birthday, and Buddhists celebrate it with much fanfare. It begins at dawn when Buddhists gather to meditate, donate, and pray in their temples. Monks chant all day about the teachings of Buddha, while temples and homes all fly the flag of Buddha.
In Malaysia, the day ends with a vast parade of decorated floats, lasting for miles and several hours! People illustrate them according to the holiday’s theme. Still, one of them will always have a massive statue of Buddha himself! Afterward, people are invited to feast with their neighbors.
Festivals such as these attract Buddhists and the general population, who all come together to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, even if they are not Buddhists. The festivities are open to all, nationwide!
Nuzul-Al Quran is a public holiday during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, and marks the start of the Quran’s revelation to Prophet Muhammad. However, this public holiday is not a federal holiday – it is only observed in certain states in Malaysia.
The date when it’s celebrated is also another issue. Although Muslims don’t claim to know when Muhammad received the revelations, Malaysian Muslims have chosen to celebrate this holiday on the 17th of Ramadan. However, the day is celebrated for Sunni Muslims on the 27th instead.
Muslims celebrate this day by heading to their local mosque for prayers, where they read the Quran out loud and chant in Arabic. Remember that Muslims observe this holiday during Ramadan, which is why this is seen as such a spiritual holiday.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
This two-day national holiday is one of the biggest celebrations in Malaysia, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s the end of Ramadan! This major holiday is the epilogue to a month of sacrifice for Muslims: Ramadan.
Muslim Malaysians prepare for Hari Raya Aidilfitri with balik kampung (returning to their hometown). They wear their traditional baju kurung (enclosed dress) and baju Melayu (Malay dress). They enjoy meals with their neighbors in the open houses to which everyone is invited, even non-Muslims!
Traditionally, they also serve delicacies such as ketupat, a sticky rice cake; rendang, Malaysia’s favorite curried dish; dodol, a delightful toffee-like candy; and satay, which you might be familiar with.
And just like Chinese New Year, Muslim Malaysians have their own Islamic version of ang pao: the Sampul duit Raya, or “Raya cover money.” Everyone who visits an open house will get one, from family members to guests off the street!
Hari Raya Haji
Also known as Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice, Hari raya haji is a Muslim holiday observed by many Malaysians, so much that it is a national holiday. It is celebrated to commemorate the story of Ibrahim (almost) sacrificing his own son, Ishmael, to God.
The holiday follows the Islamic calendar, meaning that the exact period when it is celebrated varies from year to year. The date is only declared in Malaysia after a special moon-sighting community determines when the first day of Dhul-hijja, the day of Eid, is.
Muslims would wake up early in the morning to pray at their local mosque, suited up with brand-new clothes and fresh hearts. The rest of the holiday is spent visiting their families, holding meals together, and enjoying this new beginning.
Some families may sacrifice a goat or sheep and distribute the meat to the poor. Those who cannot offer an animal for a holiday may choose to distribute money. Many Muslims, especially business owners, invite non-Muslims and their employees to celebrate the day with them too!
Merdeka Day celebrates the country’s independence from its British occupiers in 1957. This may be seen as Malaysia’s second national day, held on September 16 every year.
Malayan leaders met up with their British counterparts one day in 1957 to negotiate for their country’s independence. It eventually led to the Proclamation of Independence on August 31 of that same year, at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysians celebrate the day with parades, fireworks, exciting programs, and lots and lots of flag-waving! This public holiday celebrates Malaysia finally striking it out internationally.
National Day, also known as Hari Kebangsaan in Malay, is a public holiday commemorating the establishment of the Federation of Malaya on August 31, 1957. It marks the country’s independence from British colonial rule and is considered Malaysia’s Independence Day.
The day is celebrated by entertaining parades, fireworks, and many cultural performances. The annual National Day parade rivals the Macy’s Parade in New York. Held in Kuala Lumpur. It showcases the country’s diversity and unity, attended by important dignitaries.
The day starts with the raising of the Malaysian flag and the national anthem. After that, everything from houses to schools to shopping malls is decorated with Malaysian flags, and everyone dresses in traditional attires or clothes bearing the national flag.
One of the most important holidays of a major religion in Malaysia is Deepavali, or Diwali. The festival of lights, celebrated by Hindus worldwide and in Malaysia, signifies the victory of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
The celebration of Diwali begins with the preparation of traditional sweets, such as laddu, a type of nutty, cardamom-flavored donut hole; palkova, a milk-based dessert; and jangiri, a sweet made of mung beans.
On the day, Hindus rise early and take a prescribed ritual bath with herbal oil. Next, the house is decorated with lights and Diwali decorations. Finally, the most devout create a kolam in their homes, a form of traditional decorative art drawn using rice flour.
While Christianity is not considered a significant religion in Malaysia, Christmas Day is celebrated as well, being considered a holiday! Christmas Day usually celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ. Here, the celebration is mostly just one less working day.
Much like the rest of the world, Malaysia celebrates Christmas Day by going all out on their shopping and gift-giving. Everyone gets in on the Christmas spirit with decorations, Christmas parties, exceptional Christmas food, and, of course, gift-giving.
This holiday is cross-cultural, as everyone can celebrate it if they want. While some religions may choose not to celebrate this holiday, everyone still gets a day off from work as if it were a regular Sunday!
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