Festivals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • New Year

    • 1 Jan 2014

    As with all NYE celebrations here, New Years Eve 2014 in Kuala Lumpur will of course include a magnificent fireworks display located around the Petronas Towers in the 17 acre KLCC Park. By staying in a hotel nearby the twin towers, you will have the perfect view of the fireworks, and right up until countdown time, you can take a trolley to find bars and restaurants close by. Naturally, as countdown time approaches, the streets will become packed with people waiting excitedly for the midnight hour to arrive.

    Other places you can go to see fireworks displays include Damansara Mutiara, Sunway Pyramid, Bukit Bintang, and Dataran Merdeka, which is also known as Independence Square. Many of Kuala Lumpur’s hotels have their own New Years Eve celebrations like intimate dining, special banquets, parties, stunning balls, and a wide variety of live entertainment. You will have to check with the various hotels to find out what each one is planning. Both the bigger shopping malls and many bars, nightclubs and restaurants will also be offering special New Years parties.

  • Prophet Muhammad's Birthday

    • 14 Jan 2014

    Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is commemorated by Muslims during the month of Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month of the Muslim calendar. Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is also called Maulud Nabi in Malaysia, and is commonly marked by religious lectures and readings of the Quran.

    Muhammad’s birth was approximately in the year 570 (in the Gregorian Calendar). His uncle raised him after both the boy’s parents died while he was very young. Prophet Muhammad learned the trades of the merchant and of shepherding.

    He began to preach around the age of 40. Eventually, he and his followers numbering around ten thousand took control of Mecca. Muhammad died from an illness in 632 after uniting Arabia into a single Muslim entity.

  • Thaipusam

    • 17 Jan 2014

    Thaipusam is a key Hindu ceremony that is held each year during the full moon in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar – Thai – falling from mid-January to mid-February in the Gregorian calendar. It is marked in Malaysia by a public holiday.

    Thaipusam is celebrated by the Hindu people of South India and the mainly Tamil-speaking Hindu communities throughout Malaysia. Thaipusam is dedicated as a thanksgiving to Lord Subramaniam (also known as Murugan) for answered prayers, and is also a day of penance.

    Thaipusam is usually celebrated with a public holiday in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang and Selangor only.At Thaipusam, parades and rituals are held across the country, with devotees performing ceremonial acts at different locations – the most famous being at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur where more than one million people gather on Thaipusam each year. Tourists flock to see the colours, noise and activities of Thaipusam.

    Devotees offer Lord Subramaniam orange and yellow flowers and fruit, and dress in orange and yellow clothing as part of the ceremony. Offerings are made to many different shrines, however the most famous is at the Batu Caves where a massive 42.7-metre statue of Lord Subramaniam was unveiled in 2006. Devotees climb a staircase of 272 stone stairs into the limestone of Batu Caves, where a number of caverns exist and house the shrines.

  • Chinese New Year

    • 31 Jan 2014–1 Feb 2014

    Chinese New Year is an annual celebration marking the start of the year according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Chinese New Year always falls in the months of January or February, and each Chinese New Year is represented by 1 of the 12 creatures of the Chinese Zodiac – 2014 is the year of the Horse. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and in pre-modern times it would signal to farmers in China that they must begin preparation for the sowing of their fields.

    After Christmas each year, the Christmas decorations come down in all the malls, and are quickly replaced with Chinese New Year decorations of lanterns, cherry blossoms, orange-trees and lots of red colour. In the lead-up to Chinese New Year, distinct classical spring festival music is played in public places, most commonly the bowed-stringed instrumental style. The traditional display of dragon dances are also commonplace across the country.

    The most important element of Chinese New Year is the reunion dinner, which is held on the eve of the New Year. This is the time when all family members will come for a meal together in the parents’ or eldest brother’s home, or nowadays in restaurants as well. The reunion dinner spread is usually lavish, with multiple courses including dishes of chicken, pork and fish. In Malaysia, a dish called yee sang is the first to be served. Yee sang, also known as the Prosperity Toss, is a teochew-style raw fish salad and everyone at the table will help to mix this salad with their chopsticks – with lots of noise and laughter. The tradition is that the higher you toss the salad, the more your fortunes will grow in the New Year.

    Gift giving is an important component of Chinese New Year in Malaysia and the most common gifts amongst family, colleagues and business contacts are the boxes of oranges, or the live orange trees. Ang-poh – little red packets with new currency notes inside – are given to children, single adults and the elderly, and for children this is often the most exciting part of the celebration. A child with many uncles and aunties can potentially collect a lot of money from their ang-poh gifts.

    The Chinese New Year festivities officially last for 15 days, culminating in Chap Goh Mei – meaning the 15th night. Chap Goh Mei is celebrated with a family meal, music and decorations similar to the reunion dinner.

    Most states of Malaysia provide two official public holidays for the first two days of Chinese New Year, however Kelantan and Terengganu only provide a holiday for the first day.

  • Federal Territory Day

    • 1 Feb 2014

    Federal Territory Day is celebrated on 1st February every year in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. The date marks the anniversary of the formation of Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory, which took place in 1974.

    Originally, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya came under the state of Selangor, and Labuan under the state of Sabah. The main motivation for the change from state rule to federal rule, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, was due to the events surrounding the 1969 elections and the riots that followed. Separating Kuala Lumpur from the state reduced the option of clashes between the federal and the Selangor state governments.

    Labuan is a major, offshore financial centre and, in 1984, became the second federal territory. On 1st February 2001, Putrajaya became the third federal territory. Putrajaya is a planned city and the administrative capital of Malaysia.

    The three federal territories each have their own flag, but there is also a single flag to represent the three together. Each year since 2007, a different main theme has been celebrated generally to do with citizens, unity, progress and prosperity and, since 2008, awards, decorations and medals have been given to selected citizens for their contributions within the federal territories.

  • Labour Day

    • 1 May 2014

    Labour Day is held each year on 1st May. Labour Day is a national holiday for Malaysia, as well as for more than 80 other countries around the world. Historically, Labour Day is a celebration of the economic and social achievements of workers, including the establishment of the 8-hour day in many countries during the 1800s.

    Prior to the economic reason for Labour Day, 1st May was also a celebration of the start of the season of Spring, particularly in Great Britain, Europe and North America, and was often called May Day.

    In Malaysia, the origins of Labour Day are rarely thought of anymore, and the general public will normally use the day off to visit family, travel (if it’s a weekend), or to shop at the city malls.

    Sometimes, though, the day also includes peaceful rallies by workers to advocate for better conditions and to remind politicians to follow through on promises made.

  • Wesak Day

    • 13 May 2014

    Wesak, also spelt Vesak, is a day celebrated by Buddhists around the world. The term Vesak comes from the name of a month in the Indian calendar.

    Wesak Day is one of the most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar as it commemorates three significant events in Gautama Buddha’s life – namely his birthday, his enlightenment and his passing away.

    During this festival, devotees bring offerings of flowers, joss-sticks and candles. This is to remind them that, just as flowers wither and die, and joss sticks and candles burn away, so too is life – temporary.

    Besides this ritual, local temples carry out special services and various welfare activities such as providing vegetarian meals to the poor and needy. In some countries, Buddhists set free some captive birds as a sign of liberation from captivity. The ‘Bathing the Buddha’ ceremony is important and often a part of the celebration where water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha. This serves to remind fellow Buddhists to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practise morality and kindness.

    At the end of the day, a candle procession is held and this includes the traditional dragon and lion dances. This is the highlight of the public holiday as people of different races and religions gather to watch the procession.

    Different countries may celebrate Wesak Day in different ways but in all places it is a celebration of much colour and joy. It is considered a public holiday in most of the South East Asia countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

  • Malaysia King’s Birthday

    • 7 Jun 2014

    Malaysia King’s birthday or birthday of S.P.B. Yang di-Pertuan Agong is a national holiday in Malaysia. The public holiday is observed as an official celebration of the birth of the current head state of Malaysia – Yang Dipertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim. Malaysian people celebrate King’s birthday on the first Saturday of June every year.

  • Nuzul Al-Quran

    • 15 Jul 2014

    The Federal Government has agreed to declare Nuzul Al-Quran as a public holiday for Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, Putrajaya) starting next year.

    The Prime Minister's Department in a statement on Thursday made the announcement.Apart from declaring Nuzul Al-Quran as a public holiday, the Federal Territories will also enjoy an extra holiday on Feb 3 (Monday) since the Federal Territory Day coincides with the second day of Chinese New Year on Feb 1, 2014 (Saturday).

    According to the statement, the holiday would also apply to Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.

    "The announcement will allow people in all three 'Territories' to make early preparations for the holidays," said the statement.

  • Hari Raya AidilFitri

    • 28 Jul 2014–29 Jul 2014

    Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims. Hari Raya literally means ‘celebration day’, and Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the day that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of dawn-to-sunset fasting.

    Hari Raya Aidilfitri is considered one of the two most important celebrations for Muslims, the other being Hari Raya Haji – the festival of Abraham’s sacrifice.

    Hari Raya is one of the biggest holidays in Malaysia, and many Muslims (and even non-Muslims) return to their family home (balik kampong) driving or flying home for a couple of days before the day to be with their families and loved ones. There are often jams during this travelling time but these soon resolve as other travellers reach their destinations.

    Hari Raya Aidilfitri sees families and friends seeking forgiveness from each other, visiting ancestors’ graves, saying prayers at the mosque and visiting relatives and friends to feast traditional Malay delicacies like ketupat, rendang, satay, lemang and curry. In Malaysia, children are given token sums of money from their parents or elders.

    The Ramadan period has communal aspects to it with many of the basic values of the Muslim community, such as empathy for the poor, charity, worship, steadfastness and patience being expressed more during this period.

    During Ramadan, decorations of kampung houses, ketupats, oil lamps and colourful lights decorate big malls like Mid Valley, 1 Utama, Pavilion, Sunway Pyramid and the Curve. Little shops also are decorated in the lead-up.

    Across the country, the Ramadan month provides great food choices for those who like to sample authentic Malay cuisines. Ramadan bazaars are set up across various neighbourhoods like Pantai Dalam, TTDI, Section 17, Section 14, Kelana Jaya, and Cheras, with a huge selection of food stalls lining the streets.

    Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a joyous celebration that involves happy feasting in homes everywhere where family members greet one another with Selamat Hari Raya.

  • National Day / Merdeka Day

    • 31 Aug 2014–1 Sep 2014

    31 August 1957 marks the day that the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British colonization, forming what we know of today as Malaysia. Hence, 31 August is a National Public Holiday to commemorate and celebrate the freedom and independence gained.

    This day is also known as Hari Merdeka in the Malay language and that is why the celebration of Independence Day is incomplete without the seven shouts of “Merdeka!”. This gesture was initiated by the First Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman back in 1957 at Dataran Merdeka.

    Although it is only a one day public holiday, the celebration builds up from a month before right up to Malaysia Day which is on the 16th of September.

    During this whole month of August, also known as the Merdeka month, you will see most Malaysians express their patriotism and love towards their culturally unique country by raising the Malaysian flag on their vehicles, balcony of their homes and even along the streets! It is also during this time that government buildings all over Kuala Lumpur and most shopping malls are hoisted with the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang.

    The whole build up towards Malaysia’s Independence Day is celebrated with pride and joy where competitions and parades will be held; sometimes school children practice for performances which will be presented during Independence Day itself.

    Every year there is a specific theme for Independence Day. Previous years, the themes were “My Glorious Malaysia”, “1Malaysia: Transforming the Nation”, “55 Years of Independence: Promises Fulfilled” and etc. These themes will be reflected in the decorations and focus for Independence Day that year.

    In short, Independence Day serves as a reminder to all Malaysians to appreciate the tough fight our ancestors had fought and to educate the current generation about the spirit of Independence.

  • Malaysia Day

    • 16 Sep 2014

    Malaysia Day is held on September 16 every year to commemorate the establishment of the Malaysian federation on the same date in 1963. It marked the joining together of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to form Malaysia. The formation of the new federation was planned to occur on June 1, 1963, but was later postponed to August 31, 1963, in order to coincide with the sixth Hari Merdeka. Several issues related to the Indonesian and the Filipino objection to the formation of Malaysia delayed the declaration to September 16 of the same year. The postponement was also done to allow the United Nations team time to conduct referendums in North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak regarding the two states participation in a new federation.

    The formation of Malaysia was made possible through the introduction of the Malaysia Bill to the Malayan Parliament on July 9, 1963, and consent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on August 29, 1963.

    Prior to the formation of Malaysia, Sarawak gained its transitional administration on July 22, 1963, while Singapore and North Borneo (which was renamed Sabah) began its transitional administration from the United Kingdom on August 31, 1963, thus coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the Malayan independence.

    Since 2010, Malaysia Day has been a public holiday. Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak made the decision after a question-and-answer session at the Malaysian Parliament on October 19. 2009. This means Malaysians have two celebrations related to Malaysia's independence.

  • Deepavali

    • 23 Oct 2014

    Deepavali, or Diwali, is a festival celebrated by all Hindus to commemorate Lord Rama and his wife, Sita’s return to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile. It was a dark night when they first returned hence his people lit their houses with little lamps (diyas) so that Rama and Sita could find their way.

    For some Hindus, Deepavali is also celebrated in honour of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lighting of these diyas would then make it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to houses. Thus, this festival is known as the Festival of Lights.

    The Festival of Lights is to signify the victory of good over evil; however, it does not just mean the physical lighting of these diyas but refers to an Inner Light, which, according to Hindu philosophy, is called the Atman.

    The Times of India sums up Deepavali in this:

    What the Festival of Lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple and some not-so-simple joys of life.

    On the morning of Deepavali, Hindus get up before sunrise for a ritual oil bath known as ganga-snanam to signify the cleansing of one’s sins and impurities of the past. After that, prayers are conducted on the family altar and some go to temples for special ceremonies and worship. The rest of the day is celebrated over festive fireworks, traditional Indian savoury dishes and sweets like ladu, vadai, ommapadi and the ever-popular murukku.

    In Malaysia, Hindus would invite friends of different races and religions for an ‘open house’. This is a unique practice; it definitely builds stronger ties among Malaysians and promotes unity in this multi-racial country. On this occasion, children would be the happiest as they collect purple or sometimes yellow packets containing money.

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