Malaysia is a multi-cultural country. The three dominant races in Malaysia are
the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. Each race has its unique culture and
customary festivals. Public holidays are declared on the three important
festivals celebrated by the Malays, Chinese and Indians, namely Hari Raya Puasa,
Chinese New Year and Deepavali respectively.
Hari Raya Puasa, also known as
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, is a major event for the Muslim community. It celebrates
the end of the month of Ramadan, during which all Muslims are required to fast.
The exact date of this festival is determined by moon-sighting. A typical Malay
family usually begins the day with a trip to the mosque in the early morning for
prayers, followed by a visit to their ancestral graves to pay their respects to
family members who have passed away. After that, they go on to visit the homes
of relatives and friends. At home, the young will ask their elders' forgiveness
for any wrongdoing, and they will usually be given a token sum of money called
The Chinese New Year is the most important festival to the Chinese. The date
changes from year to year, unlike the Western New Year which is always on 1
January, because it follows the Chinese lunar calendar. The festivities begin on
the eve of the occasion with the reunion dinner, during which the whole family
will gather to have a feast. Chinese New Year is traditionally ushered in with
firecrackers and lion dances. Chinese families visit their relatives, especially
their elders, with gifts of mandarin oranges and New Year delicacies. During
these visits, they enjoy snacks like cookies and pineapple tarts. It is also the
custom for married couples to present children with money in small red packets
called hong bao.
The Malaysian Hindu community celebrates a major festival called Deepavali,
also known as Diwali or the Festival of Lights. It is usually celebrated for
five days around the months of October and November. Before the festival, Hindus
clean their houses and business premises thoroughly. During this festival, Hindu
families decorate their homes with oil lamps, along with patterns of colored
rice known as kolam. Families put on new clothes and go to the temple
before visiting their relatives and friends. Traditional gifts like sweets and
dried fruit are exchanged. There is feasting while children play with fireworks.
The festivals in Malaysia are similar in that they draw people closer
together be it family members, relatives, neighbors or friends. It is a time for
renewing ties and showing respect for one another. Learning more about these
festivals can help promote tolerance and harmony.