A nature lover, a beach bum, a culture enthusiast or a foodie – whatever kind of traveler you may be, Malaysia promises to be the perfect travel destination that will allure you with its magic. While Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest skyscrapers and flashiest shopping malls, Penang is steeped in history and cultural experiences and the islands offer endless vistas of turquoise waters and pristine beaches. The range of festivals in Malaysia reflects its vibrant cultural diversity and religious tolerance, and assures you a glimpse into its rich traditions. While you saunter through this beautiful country exploring its many wonders, do try to witness a few of these Malaysian festivals and celebrations.
14 Festivals In Malaysia In 2021
The country of Malaysia has innumerable celebrations taking place throughout the year that locals and tourists love to attend. But if you wish to witness its culture at its best, here’s a list of festivals in Malaysia 2021 that you ought to witness and be a part of!
- Thaipusam – Jan/Feb 2021
- Chinese New Year – Feb 2021
- Malaysia Water Festival – April 2021
- Tadau Ka’amatan Harvest Festival – 30 & 31st May 2021
- Wesak Day – May 2021
- Hari Raya Aidil Fitri – June 2021
- Sarawak Gawai Festival – 1st June 2021
- Rainforest World Music Festival – July 2021
- National Day – 31st Aug 2021
- Mooncake Festival & Hungry Ghost Festival – Aug-Sep 2021
- Hari Raya Haji – Oct 2021
- Deepavali – Nov 2021
- The Dragon Boat Festival – Dec 2021
- Christmas – Dec 2021
One of the most important Tamil festivals of Malaysia, Thaipusam commemorates the victory of Lord Muruga over the evil spirit Soorapadam with great pomp and show. Celebrated with fervour for 3 days at the famous Batu Caves shrine around the full moon day, you can witness the grand procession that kicks off from Kuala Lumpur. Lord Muruga is carried in a silver chariot to the sound of chants & drums while over a million devotees throng the temple to seek his blessings. It is a sight to watch ardent devotees carry ‘kavadis’ yoked to their body through metal spikes.
When: Late January/early February 2021
Where: Batu Caves (Selangor); Waterfall Temple (Penang)
Highlight Of The Festival: Lord Muruga is carried in a silver chariot
2. Chinese New Year
The most important Chinese festival in Malaysia is a grand cultural celebration that lasts 15 days starting from the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and ending with the Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year is celebrated through out the country. The festivities kick off with the reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve and paying a visit to the temple to seek blessings from the God of Prosperity. It also involves interesting traditions like handing out the ‘ang pow’ to children and giving away mandarin oranges for prosperity. Remember to dress up in red, the color of prosperity when you head out to attend the grand Open Houses spectacular lion & dragon dance performances. There are some majestic places to visit in Malaysia during Chinese New Year, that would allow you to relish this festival to the fullest, so make sure to check them out as well. It is one of the upcoming festivals in Malaysia that you should not forget to attend if you are around.
When: February 2021
Where: Across the country, especially Kuala Lumpur.
Highlight Of The Festival: Lion & dragon dance performances
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3. Malaysia Water Festival
Water Festival in Malaysia is just like Holi in India, except that they play it with clean uncoloured water and do not use dry colours as well. It’s among the most enjoyable cultural festivals in Malaysia celebrated in the gap year where people from different ages and walks of life gather to heartily throw water on each other. The festival commences in Kuantan and ends in Labuan. Activities involve an international fishing tournament, kayaking challenge, sandcastle building, and much more.
When: April 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: International fishing tournament
4. Tadau Ka’amatan Harvest Festival
This native festival of Kadazan-Dusun, Sabah’s largest ethnic group is essentially a celebration to thank the holy spirits for a bountiful harvest making it to the list of famous festivals in Malaysia. Padi farmers congregate to honour ‘Bambaazon’, the spirit of rice padi through traditional rites and customs followed by festivities. The headquarters of Kadazan Dusun Cultural Organisation hold ethnic dance performances as well as display of traditional sports like arm-wrestling, blowpipe shooting etc. Free-flow of Tapai and Lihing, the local rice wines adds to the spirit and fervour of one of the most interesting cultural festivals of Malaysia.
When: 30 & 31st May 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Arm-wrestling, blowpipe shooting
5. Wesak Day
Wesak day is a popular festival in Malaysia. Like in all Buddhist countries, Wesak festival celebration in Malaysia gives you a chance to witness this important event marking the three major milestones in Budhha’s life – his birth, enlightenment and nirvana. Buddhists across the country observe fasting to cleanse themselves and also spend time meditating at the temples all day. They also release doves and tortoises as a symbol of liberating the soul and absolving one’s past life sins. This pious festival is marked with alms giving, spirituality and positivity. Radiating with positivity, this is the most serene festival amidst all the Malaysian festivals.
When: Full moon of May 2021
Where: Across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Releasing doves and tortoises as a symbol of liberating
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6. Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid)
One of the most joyful festivals in Malaysia celebrated by Muslims across the country, Eid marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of abstinence and fasting. Muslims working in bigger cities head back home to join the festivities and participate in special prayers held at mosques. Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is marked with feasting and house-visits as well as asking for forgiveness from friends and family members. The most wonderful part is the Open House where Malaysians open their doors and shower warm hospitality on all guests, with traditional delicacies and desserts.
When: June 2021
Where: Across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Open House tradition
7. Sarawak Gawai Festival
Celebrated by the indigenous Dayak’s race of Swarawak, Malaysia’s largest state, this Malaysia festival is one of the most important harvest festivals in Malaysia that begins on 1st June and goes on for a whole month. The Dayak’s dress in their traditional attire, indulge in a fascinating ceremonial offering and welcome the New Year with gusto. The best place to witness the celebrations in their full glory is a longhouse, the traditional Dayak home with over 40 families residing under the same roof! Traditional dances, feasting and free-flowing tuak (rice wine) add vigour and charm to the celebrations. No wonder it has a special place in the list of festivals in Malaysia.
When: 1st June 2021
Where: Sarawak state
Highlight Of The Festival: Traditional dances, feasting and free-flowing tuak
8. Rainforest World Music Festival
Nothing can beat the excitement of gyrating to foot-stomping music in the rainforests of Borneo with thousands of music enthusiasts from across the world. One of the most spectacular music festivals in Malaysia and amongst the largest in Southeast Asia, Rainforest Music Festival is a heady mix of live performances by top-notch international artists, cultural experiences and workshops. Head to the Sarawak Cultural Village for an unforgettable 3-day musical extravaganza, one of the best festivals in Malaysia 2021.
When: July 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Live performances
9. National Day
Celebrating the country’s independence from British rule on this day in 1957, Hari Merdeka is one of the most glorious festivals in Malaysia that must not be missed if you’re in Kuala Lumpur around this time. Spectacular fireworks on the eve of Independence Day, a grand parade at Merdeka Square in the morning and concerts as well as performances all through the day mark this important day in the life of Malay people. Parades, stage shows and exhibitions are held across the country, but the fervour at Kuala Lumpur can’t be beat. If you want to witness the grand celebrations in Malaysia, then you must attend this festival.
When: 31st August 2021
Where: Kuala Lumpur
Highlight Of The Festival: Concerts and grand parade
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10. Mooncake Festival & Hungry Ghost Festival
Also called the Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn festival, this celebration follows the ancient tradition of thanking the moon goddess for a bountiful harvest. Lantern festival is a traditional festival in Malaysia. Colourful lantern processions and delicious mooncakes dominate the celebrations, which also stand for unity within the community and family. Preceding the mid-autumn festival is another unique celebration called the Hungry Ghost Festival, wherein the spirits of the dead are appeased by food offerings and traditional puppet shows, etc, making it one of the most cheerful festivities in Malaysia.
When: August/September 2021
Where: Across the country
Highlight Of The Festival: Mooncakes
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11. Hari Raya Haji
Hari Raya Haji is just like Eid, but the procedure to celebrate this is different from the other festivals and celebration in Malaysia. In order to commemorate the famous Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, the muslim community in Malaysia engages in religious practices like the sacrificial-slaughtering (korban), praying and greeting fellow friends and family in mosques, and distributing food to the poor and needy. This is among the traditional festivals in Malaysia that is marked by lights, music, laughter, and food.
When: October 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Praying and greeting fellow friends
The ‘Festival of Lights’ is celebrated in Malaysia with just as much enthusiasm and vigor as in India. It is, in fact, one of the most important festivals celebrated in Malaysia. You’ll see local Hindus celebrate this festival by using coloured chalk to craft different patterns and images on the ground over which they then scatter coloured rice to make what we call in India a “rangoli”. All the varied races and religions in Malaysia gather up in public spaces or malls to together celebrate one of the most prominent Hindu festivals in Malaysia with greetings and sweets.
When: November 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Visiting relatives, distributing sweets
13. The Dragon Boat Festival
One of the most interesting festivals in Malaysia, Penang International Dragon Boat Festival is an annual event held at the Teluk Bahang dam near Georgetown. It’s exciting to witness more than 40 competitors from Malaysia and across the world participate in the race with their colorful traditional boats to the beats of the drums. You can click captivating pictures, taste local delicacies and enjoy the performances to entertain the crowds at the site. The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most famous Malaysia festivals and is a huge hit amongst locals as well as tourists.
When: December 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Colorful traditional boats
Christmas is popular the world over and there’s no way Malaysia would fall behind in celebrating such an important festival. Malaysia may have their own ways of commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, but it’s still one of the jolliest festivals in Malaysia 2021 as everywhere else in the world. Though you won’t find a traditional “white Christmas” here, the celebrations here involve everything from lights, Christmas displays and hoardings, carols, food, plum cakes, decorations, and crazy shopping deals for locals and tourists alike!
When: December 2021
Highlight Of The Festival: Plum cakes and decorations
Malaysia too like India is a place of cultural diversity which you can see clearly in its festivals and events. If you’re looking for more interesting festivals in Malaysia in 2021, the Kelantan Kite Festival, as well as the Georgetown Festival, is a must-visit. So, the next time when you plan your Malaysia trip, make sure to immerse yourself in its amazing festivals to dig a little deeper into its roots.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Festivals In Malaysia
What is Thaipusam in Malaysia?
Thaipusam or Thaipoosam in Malaysia is a Hindu festival celebrated during the full moon in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar.
How is Thaipusam celebrated?
Thaipusam is the biggest festival in the world dedicated to Lord Murugan. In this pilgrims walk barefoot for several kilometers carrying a kavadi which contains milk and is decorated with peacock feathers. They climb up the 272 stairs of Lord Murugan in Batu Cave Temple and make the offering. Some pilgrims also perform self-sacrificing rituals in the temple premises.
Which are famous Indian festivals in Malaysia?
Some of the famous Indian festivals celebrated in Malaysia are: 1. Thaipusam 2. Deepavali (Festival of Lights) 3. Makar Sankranti 4. Lohri 5. Pongal
Which holidays are celebrated in Malaysia?
some of the holidays that are celebrated in Malaysia are: 1. Thaipusam 2. Wesak Day 3. Chinese New Year 4. Sarawak Gawai Festival 5. National Day
Which is the best time to visit Malaysia?
The best time to visit Malaysia is between the months of December and February when one can enjoy Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and other festive occasions here.
What is there to do in KL for Chinese New Year?
Some of the things to do in Kuala Lumpur on Chinese New Year are: 1. Visit the Petaling Street or Chinatown 2. Have a traditional ‘Yee Sang’ meal 3. Witness the annual Chinese New Year Lantern & Floral Festival in Jenjarom.
How many days are enough to explore Malaysia?
A week to 10 days are sufficient to explore all the places to visit in Malaysia.
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