Sharing borders with Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei and with a diverse heritage including a long period of British colonial rule and an economically strong Chinese community, Malaysia is one of the most multicultural countries in Southeast Asia. The vibrant cultural diversity and religious tolerance is reflected in the range of festivals in Malaysia.
Embraced by the community as a whole, and celebrated nation-wide, it comes with little surprise that many celebrations in Malaysia revolve around these rich customs and traditions. As you adventurously amble your way through this beautiful country, it’s definitely worth adding a handful of these bright, vibrant Malaysian festivals and celebrations to your itinerary. Here are some of our favourites:
Important to note:
Unlike many Western celebrations, most Malaysian festivals and celebrations don’t have a fixed date. This is because they are based on the lunar or Islamic calendar. If you’re planning travels to coincide with different celebrations in Malaysia, we’d advise checking local Malaysian calendars for exact dates.
One of the most important Tamil Hindi celebrations in Malaysia is Thaipusam. This colourful festival celebrates Lord Murugan’s victory over the evil spirit of Soorapadam. Each year the festival is celebrated at Batu Cave near Kuala Lumpur. Expect to sing along to many folk songs, enjoy traditional dance performances and long temple processions. The most iconic part of this festival is the piercing ritual, where devotees pierce spears through their mouth to appease the Lord.
You can explore Batu Caves when you travel with Trafalgar on the Colonial Singapore and Malaysia tour.
Malaysia Water Festival
Celebrated every April and one of the most fun festivals in Malaysia, the Malaysia Water Festival sees people of all ages and walks of life come together to throw water on one another. Hosted along the many beaches of the country, some favourite festival activities include sandcastle building, fishing and kayaking.
BE INSPIRED: Six things you must do when visiting Malaysia
Chinese New Year
Celebrated across 15 days, Chinese New Year is one of the biggest festivals in Malaysia each year. Celebrated throughout the entire country, festivities kick off with Reunion dinners on New Years Eve. Throughout the festivities, many Chinese communities will celebrate with traditions such as lion dances, fire works and house visits; where red packets called ‘ang pao’ are given to children.
Hari Raya Aidil Fitri
With more than half of the country’s population comprising of ethnic Malays who follow Islam, one of the most important festivals in Malaysia is the Islamic celebration Eid al-Fitr, or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, as it’s known in Malay. Marking the end of Ramadan, the celebration falls on a different date each year and is celebrated with two days of feasting. Featured in the feasts are delicacies including Lemang (sticky rice roll), Ketupat (rice dumplings), Satay and Kebabs.
View the grand 19th century Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur, when you travel with Trafalgar on the Colonial Singapore and Malaysia tour.
The Hindi festival of Diwali, or Deepavali as it’s known in Malaysia, is one of the most popular festivals in Malaysia. Known as the ‘festival of lights’, the holiday signifies the victory of light and hope over darkness. Visitors can expect to see lots of firework displays, coloured rice powder patterns and temples decorated with lit lanterns. Deepavali is also a great opportunity to sample some of the local Indian cuisine too – think samosas, jalebi and murukkus.
RELATED CONTENT: What is Diwali, and how is it celebrated?
Celebrated every year in May, Wesak Day is a Buddhist festival that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Lord Buddha. Throughout the country, Buddhists begin celebrations at dawn; where they gather at temples to pray, meditate and offer food to the poor. The celebration also includes a grand parade that usually features a giant statue of Buddha.
Marvel at the beautifully painted murals of the Perak Cave Temple when you travel with Trafalgar on the Colonial Singapore and Malaysia tour.
Rainforest World Music Festival
One of the most spectacular music festivals in Malaysia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia, Rainforest World Music Festival is a 3-day festival held in the Sarawak Cultural Village each year in July. This festival in Malaysia combines a mix of live performances by global artists, cultural experiences and workshops. It’s a not-to-be-missed event for music and culture lovers.
GET INSPIRED: 7 colourful festivals around the world
Kaamatan Harvest Festival
Celebrated in May each year, the Kaamatan Harvest Festival is a pagan festival performed by the largest ethnic tribe in Sabah, the Kadazan-Dusun. During this lively celebration, padi farmers come together to honour Bambaazon; the spirit of rice padi through traditional rites and customs, followed by festivities. Colourful ethnic costumes are worn by traditional dancers, while large amounts of regional tribal foods including homemade rice wine are included in the celebrations. One of the most interesting cultural festivals in Malaysia, visitors can also witness blowpipe shooting, arm wrestling and beauty pageants.
Have you ever considered travelling to Malaysia? Would you include any festivals in Malaysia in your itinerary? Let us know in the comments below! Or, head to our website, where you can find inspiration on how you can travel to Malaysia with Trafalgar.