A nature enthusiast, a beach lover, a cultural aficionado, or a food connoisseur – whichever type of traveler you might be, Malaysia guarantees to be the ideal travel destination that will captivate you with its enchantment. While Kuala Lumpur boasts the tallest skyscrapers and most extravagant shopping malls, Penang is steeped in history and cultural encounters, and the islands offer countless views of turquoise waters and unspoiled beaches. The variety of vibrant events in Malaysia reflects its diverse cultural heritage and religious tolerance, and provides you with a glimpse into its rich customs. While you wander through this stunning country exploring its many marvels, try to witness a few of these Malaysian festivals and celebrations.
14 Festivals In Malaysia In 2021
The country of Malaysia hosts numerous festivities throughout the year that both locals and tourists love to attend. However, if you wish to experience its culture at its finest, here’s a list of festivals in Malaysia 2021 that you should witness and take part in!
- 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 significant Tamil festivals in Malaysia, Thaipusam celebrates the triumph of Lord Muruga over the evil spirit Soorapadam with great pomp and spectacle. Celebrated fervently for 3 days at the renowned Batu Caves shrine during the full moon, you can witness the magnificent procession that commences from Kuala Lumpur. Lord Muruga is carried in a silver carriage to the accompaniment of chants and drums, while over a million devotees gather at the temple to seek his blessings. It is a mesmerizing sight to see devoted followers carrying ‘kavadis’ attached to their bodies with metal spikes.
When: Late January/early February 2021Where: Batu Caves (Selangor); Waterfall Temple (Penang)Highlight Of The Festival: Lord Muruga is transported in a silver carriage
2. Lunar New Year
The most significant Chinese festival in Malaysia is a grand cultural celebration that lasts 15 days beginning on the initial day of the Chinese lunar calendar and concluding with the Lantern Festival. Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout the nation. The festivities commence with the reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve and visiting the temple to seek blessings from the God of Prosperity. It also involves intriguing customs like distributing “ang pow” to children and giving away mandarin oranges for good fortune. Remember to dress in red, the color of prosperity, when attending the grand Open Houses and witnessing astonishing lion and dragon dance performances. There are some splendid destinations to explore in Malaysia during Lunar New Year, that would allow you to savor this festival to the fullest, so be sure to explore them as well. It is one of the forthcoming festivals in Malaysia that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in the vicinity.
When: February 2021Where: Across the country, particularly Kuala Lumpur.Highlight Of The Festival: Lion and dragon dance performances
3. Malaysia Water Festival
Water Festival in Malaysia is akin to Holi in India, with the exception that they use clean, uncolored water and do not employ dry colors. It is one of the most pleasurable cultural festivals in Malaysia observed during the intermission when people of all ages and backgrounds come together to joyfully splash water on each other. The festival begins in Kuantan and concludes in Labuan. Activities include an international fishing tournament, kayaking challenge, sandcastle building, and much more.
When: April 2021Highlight Of The Festival: International angling tournament
4. Tadau Ka’amatan Harvest Festival
This indigenous festival of Kadazan-Dusun, Sabah’s largest ethnic group is essentially a celebration to express gratitude towards the sacred spirits for a fruitful harvest, placing it on the list of renowned festivals in Malaysia. Padi farmers gather to pay homage to ‘Bambaazon’, the spirit of rice padi through traditional rituals and customs, followed by festivities. The central organization for Kadazan Dusun Culture presents ethnic dance performances as well as demonstrations of traditional sports such as arm-wrestling, blowpipe shooting, and more. The free-flowing Tapai and Lihing, the local rice wines, enhance the enthusiasm and liveliness of one of Malaysia’s most captivating cultural festivals.
When: 30th & 31st May 2021Where: SabahHighlight Of The Festival: Arm-wrestling, blowpipe shooting
5. Wesak Day
Wesak day is a widely celebrated festival in Malaysia. Similar to other Buddhist nations, the celebration of Wesak festival in Malaysia offers an opportunity to witness this significant event that commemorates the three major milestones in Buddha’s life – his birth, enlightenment, and nirvana. Buddhists across the country observe fasting as a means to purify themselves and spend the entire day meditating at temples. They also release doves and tortoises as a symbol of liberating the soul and absolving past life transgressions. This sacred festival is filled with acts of charity, spiritual reflection, and positivity. Exuding positivity, it stands out as the most tranquil festival amidst all the festivals celebrated in Malaysia.
When: Full moon of May 2021Where: Throughout the nationMain Attraction of the Festival: Releasing birds and turtles as a symbol of liberation
6. Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid)
One of the most delightful festivals in Malaysia celebrated by Muslims across the country, Eid signifies the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of self-control and fasting. Muslims employed in larger cities return home to partake in the festivities and take part in special prayers held at mosques. Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is observed with grand feasts and home visits, as well as seeking forgiveness from friends and family members. The most enchanting part is the Open House tradition where Malaysians open their homes and extend warm hospitality to all guests, serving them with traditional delicacies and desserts.
When: June 2021Where: Throughout the nationMain Attraction of the Festival: Open House tradition
7. Sarawak Gawai Festival
Celebrated by the indigenous Dayak’s community of Swarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, this Malaysian festival is one of the most significant harvest festivals in Malaysia that commences on 1st June and lasts for an entire month. The Dayak’s dress in their traditional garments and partake in a captivating ceremonial offering to welcome the New Year with enthusiasm. The best location to witness the festivities in all their splendor is a longhouse, the traditional Dayak dwelling where over 40 families reside under the same roof! Traditional dances, feasts, and abundant tuak (rice wine) enhance the vibrancy and allure of the celebrations. It’s no wonder it holds a special place among the festivals in Malaysia.
When: 1st June 2021Where: Sarawak stateHighlight Of The Festival: Traditional dances, feasting and unlimited tuak
8. Rainforest World Music Festival
Nothing can surpass the thrill of dancing to energetic music in the forests of Borneo with numerous music enthusiasts from around the globe. One of the most impressive music festivals in Malaysia and among the largest in Southeast Asia, Rainforest Music Festival is a powerful blend of live performances by world-class international artists, cultural experiences, and workshops. Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village for an unforgettable three-day musical extravaganza, one of the top festivals in Malaysia 2021.
When: July 2021Where: BorneoHighlight 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 magnificent festivals in Malaysia that should not be missed if you are in Kuala Lumpur during this time. Dazzling fireworks on the eve of Independence Day, a grand parade at Merdeka Square in the morning, and concerts as well as performances throughout the day symbolize this important day in the lives of Malay people. Parades, stage shows, and exhibitions are organized across the country, but the enthusiasm in Kuala Lumpur is unparalleled. If you want to experience the grand celebrations in Malaysia, then you must attend this festival.
When: 31st August 2021Where: Kuala LumpurHighlight Of The Festival: Concerts and grand parade
10. Mooncake Festival & Hungry Ghost Festival
Also referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn festival, this celebration follows the ancient tradition of expressing gratitude to the moon goddess for an abundant harvest. Lantern festival is a customary festival in Malaysia. Vibrant lantern processions and delectable mooncakes dominate the festivities, which also symbolize solidarity within the community and family. Preceding the mid-autumn festival is another distinctive celebration known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, where the spirits of the deceased are appeased through food offerings and traditional puppet shows, among other things, making it one of the liveliest celebrations in Malaysia.
When: August/September 2021Where: Throughout the countryHighlight Of The Festival: Mooncakes
11. Hari Raya Haji
Hari Raya Haji is similar to Eid, but the approach to celebrate it differs from other festival and celebration in Malaysia. To commemorate the renowned Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim community in Malaysia participates in religious rituals such as sacrificial-slaughtering (korban), praying, greeting friends and family in mosques, and distributing food to the underprivileged. This is one of the traditional festivals in Malaysia characterized by illumination, music, laughter, and cuisine.
When: October 2021Highlight Of The Festival: Praying and greeting fellow friends
The ‘Festival of Lights’ is celebrated in Malaysia with equal enthusiasm and fervor as in India. It is, in fact, one of the most significant fests celebrated in Malaysia. You’ll witness local Hindus celebrate this festival by using colored chalk to create various patterns and images on the ground over which they then scatter colored rice to create what we call in India a “rangoli”. All the diverse races and religions in Malaysia gather in public spaces or malls to collectively celebrate one of the most prominent Hindu festivals in Malaysia with greetings and sweets.
When: November 2021Main Attraction Of The Festival: Visiting relatives, distributing sweets
13. The Dragon Boat Festival
One of the most intriguing festivities in Malaysia, Penang International Dragon Boat Festival is an annual event held at the Teluk Bahang dam near Georgetown. It’s thrilling to witness over 40 competitors from Malaysia and across the world participate in the race with their vibrant traditional boats to the rhythm of the drums. You can capture captivating pictures, savor local delicacies, and enjoy the performances that entertain the crowds at the venue. The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most famous Malaysia festivals and is a huge hit among locals as well as tourists.
When: December 2021Where: PenangMain Attraction Of The Festival: Colorful traditional boats
Christmas is renowned worldwide and Malaysia doesn’t fall behind in celebrating such an important festival. Malaysia may have its own ways of commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, but it’s still one of the merriest festivals in Malaysia 2021 as in the rest of the world. Although you won’t find a traditional “white Christmas” here, the celebrations involve everything from lights, Christmas displays and signs, carols, food, plum cakes, decorations, and incredible shopping deals for locals and tourists alike!
When: December 2021Main Attraction Of The Festival: Plum cakes and decorations
Just like India, Malaysia is a place of cultural diversity, which is clearly reflected in its festivals and events. If you’re looking for more fascinating festivals in Malaysia in 2021, the Kelantan Kite Festival and the Georgetown Festival are a must-visit. So, the next time you plan your trip to Malaysia, make sure to immerse yourself in its amazing festivals to delve deeper into its heritage.
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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 largest festival in the world dedicated to Lord Murugan. In this festival, pilgrims walk barefoot for several kilometers carrying a kavadi which contains milk and is adorned with peacock feathers. They climb up the 272 stairs of Lord Murugan in Batu Cave Temple and make their offering. Some pilgrims also perform self-sacrificial rituals in the temple premises.
Which are famous Indian festivals in Malaysia?
Some of the renowned 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 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 ideal 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 can be done in KL for Chinese New Year?
Some of the activities to do in Kuala Lumpur during Chinese New Year are: 1. Visit Petaling Street or Chinatown 2. Have a traditional ‘Yee Sang’ meal 3. Attend the annual Chinese New Year Lantern & Floral Festival in Jenjarom.
How many days are enough to explore Malaysia?
A week to 10 days is sufficient to explore all the places to visit in Malaysia.