Thaipusam is a dramatic Hindu festival celebrated every year on the full moon according to the Tamil calendar in the month of Thai. A procession marks the eve of Thaipusam with a silver chariot carrying the image of Lord Subramaniam from the Chettiar Temple to the Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple. The crowds break coconuts and make offerings of fruits, flowers and money when the procession stops at every Hindu shrine. On the Thaipusam day, kavadi bearers start a procession from the Sivan temple. Here the devotees are washed with saffron water and then put into trance and body piercing. Then the devotees and their supporters and the others proceed to the Waterfall Temple where the body spears are removed.
Sang Cho Kong is celebrated on the 24th day of the twelfth moon by the Chinese community. The Kitchen God watches over and keeps a record of all the domestic happenings and flies back to heaven to report on the family at the end of every lunar year. Sweets are offered just before he starts his space journey, in a way to keep him silent so that he tells only sweet things about the family.
Celebrated on the eve of the Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year's Eve is a traditional time for Chinese family members to get together over an opulent dinner. The Steamboat has generally preferred wherein everyone sits around comfortably, cooking their part of food in a bubbling hot container. No debts are collected during the first 15 days of the New Year, and all the debts and accounts of the old year are settled before the last working day ends. People exchange thoughts, swap stories and gossip among themselves over dinner.
According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first moon. The next fifteen days are spent visiting relatives and friends, wishing them Gong Xi Fai Cai or Keong Hee Huat Chye. Acrobats, dragon and Lion dance troupes are invited to the temples, institutions and homes to bless the New Year with success and prosperity. Children get Ang Pow or hongbao from married adults.
Birthday of Chor Soo Kong is celebrated on the sixth day of the first moon. It is celebrated by performing Chinese opera in the afternoon and at night in front of the temple.
Awal Muharram marks the start of the Muslim calendar. It also commemorates the first Muharram, Prophet Mohammad's journey from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. New Year is celebrated by attending Koran reading performances and attending religious talks.
Celebrated on the seventh day of the first moon, People's Day or "Everyone's birthday" is a Chinese festival. On this day, the Chinese community feasts on a traditional dish called "seven vegetables".
Birthday of Jade Emperor is celebrated in honour of the Supreme ruler of Heaven, Yu Huang. The celebration starts on the ninth day of the first moon, one day prior to the birthday of Jade Emperor. People gather at the foot of the Penang Hill next to the Lower Station at night. It is celebrated by making offerings to Yu Huang at different temples.
Celebrated in Tanjong Tokong at the Hai Choo Soo (Sea Pearl) Temple, Chnea Hoay is a flame-watching ceremony that starts at about 11o’clock at night. The joss embers are lighted, and the temple lights are switched off. Chnea Hoay is celebrated to check out what the God of Prosperity, Tua Pek Kong, tells about the country’s economy.
Hari Raya Haji or Berkorban is the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In accordance with Islam's fifth tenet, Muslims perform the annual pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. It is marked by special early morning prayers and sermons at the mosque. Meat is distributed to the poor and needy.
Attended by the Chettiars, the Mariannam Procession starts at the Sri Mariannam Temple in Queen Street, where the goddess Mariannam is seated on a wooden horse drawn by a bullock cart on the new moon night. At the Muneeswarar Waterfall Temple, there is a ritual killing of a goat performed. Then the Chettiar community shares the meal within the nearby areas.
The Sikh New Year, Vaisakhi, is celebrated on a day between 12th April to 14th April, depending on the lunar calendar. On this day, the Sikh Bible, "Guru Granth Sahib", is read continuously for 48 hours. It is celebrated at different Gurudwaras, the Diamond Jubilee Sikh Gurdwara being the main one in Penang. Vaisakhi ends with a meal for the worshippers.
Panguni Uttiram Varusha is celebrated on the full moon day of Panguni according to the Tamil calendar. The festival is devoted to the marriage of Theivani to Lord Subramaniam and of Siva to Shakti.
Varusha Pirappu or the Tamil New Year is celebrated in April, Chittirai according to the Tamil calendar. The Vaishnaivities in Penang celebrates it at Sri Rama Temple at York Road for nine days. Prayers are offered, and the Kuttu Vilaku (traditional oil lamp) is lighted and is placed next to the Niraikudam at home.
Cithirai Parwam is marked by a fire walking ceremony conducted in honour of the Mariannam goddess.
Cheng Beng or Qing Ming or all Souls Day is celebrated on 5th April (4th April in case of a leap year) by the Chinese community. On this day, Chinese people visit the graves of the ancestors and the deceased family members to make offerings and pay respect.
Celebrated thrice in a year, the birthday of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, falls on the 19th day of the second lunar month. The devotees visit the Kuan Yin Temple on Pitt Street. There is a Chinese puppet theatre performed outside the temple.
Sri Rama Navami is a nine-day festival celebrated by the Brahman caste in honour of Sri Rama.
Birthday of the Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea is celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth moon. Ma Cho Po or Ma Zu or Lin Mo is worshipped as the Goddess of the Sea. It is said that she could forecast weather changes, and hence sailors would seek her advice before going on a journey. Sailors and fishermen also say that Lin Mo would save the lives of the people in danger. Seafarers offer her prayers before setting on a journey. The day she died, a beautiful rainbow was seen on Meizhou Island.
Prophet Mohamad was born on the third month according to the Muslim calendar. His birthday is celebrated by reciting religious prayers and attending religious lectures held at the mosque.
Observed on the 15th day of the fourth moon, Wesak Day is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Buddhist devotees visit the temple, offer prayers, light candles and release doves. At 7 in the evening, there is a procession of flower, floats and flag.
Birthday of Chor So Kong is celebrated on the sixth day of the sixth moon according to the lunar calendar. Chinese opera is performed in the afternoon and evening before the Snake Temple. Eggs are offered by the devotees.
Celebrated thrice in a year, the birthday of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, falls on the 19th day of the sixth lunar month. The devotees visit the Kuan Yin Temple on Pitt Street. There is a Chinese puppet theatre performed outside the temple.
Phor Thor festival or the Hungry Ghosts festival is celebrated for one month. On the first day of the seventh moon, the ghosts are let out to wander among the living as the gates of hell are opened. Hell money, food, incense and prayers are offered to please the ghosts. Chinese puppet theatre and Chinese opera are also staged in different parts of the towns during the nights.
Double Sevens is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. On the eve of this day, unmarried women offer prayers and offerings to the Seven Sisters. Legend says that one of the seven sisters, a heavenly maiden, falls in love with the Cowherd, a mortal, and they meet on this night across the Milky Way as they could not be together due to circumstances.
Chong Yuen Ti Kuan Ta Ti is observed on the 14th day of the moon by the Cantonese and on the 15th day of the moon by the Hokkiens. Chong Yuen Ti Kuan Ta Ti is also famous as Chit Guek Puah and refers to the mid-seventh month. People offer prayers, paper and food to Tai Su Yah, the ruler of the underworld, to cleanse them from their past sins. Sheds are put up along the sides of the road to exhibit the paper offerings and representation made by the devotees.
Birthday of Tai Sui is celebrated on the 19th day of the seventh moon. People hang a piece of paper siau ren (evil men) upside down at the Tai Sui altar and beat them with slippers. People pronounce the hated person’s name along with a series of curses.
Mooncake festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth moon by the Chinese community. It is observed to honour the overthrow of the Mongols by the revolutionary leaders. The leaders used to send secret messages in mooncakes to call people to revolt. On the mooncake night, small children walk with paper lanterns all the way through the streets.
Birthday of Guru Nanak is celebrated by reading the "Guru Granth Sahib", the Sikh Bible, non-stop for 48 hours by the Sikhs in the Gurudwara. The Diamond Jubilee Sikh Gurdwara is the main one in Penang. The day ends with a meal for the worshippers.
The Masi Maham Festival is celebrated at the Sri Singamuga Kaliaman Temple in Teluk Bahang. There is a kavadi procession followed by dance performances of young boys and girls. The procession is accompanied by some musicians who give rhythm to the performances. A lot of Hindus come together along the beach to watch the procession in the afternoon. During the sunset, the statue of Goddess Kali is seated on a raft which is pulled by a boat. The statue stays in the sea for an hour. Holy ash is distributed among the devotees, and the procession is ended by shooting fireworks in the air.
Celebrated thrice in a year, the birthday of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, falls on the 19th day of the ninth lunar month. The devotees visit the Kuan Yin Temple on Pitt Street. There is a Chinese puppet theatre performed outside the temple.
Deepavali or the "Festival of Lights" is celebrated by the Hindus commemorating the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura, the demon king. Lamps are lighted in all Indian houses at night, and offerings are made to Lord Krishna.
The Thai water festival, Loy Krathong is celebrated by lighting candles, placing them on Krathong and floating them (lotuses) on the sea. Krathong is a leaf-cup made traditionally of banana leaves. Before allowing the lotuses into the sea, a wish is made, and it is believed that the further the lotuses float, the more is the chance of the wish getting fulfilled. Nowadays, the lotuses are made of crepe paper and are drifted on the Styrofoam. At around 8 o'clock in the evening, a small procession starts from the Siamese temple and ends up at the Gurney Drive to allow the Krathong to float.
Observed on the ninth month according to the Islamic calendar, Ramadhan is marked with a month of fasting. It is a unique spiritual characteristic of Islam followed by the Muslims by desisting completely from food, water and other drinks, smoking and intimate intercourses from the twilight till the sunset.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the end Ramadhan. Special prayers are held in the mosque, and Muslims break their one month long fast on this day. Lemang, traditional food made of glutinous rice and cooled in bamboo stems, is served to everyone. The doors of the houses are open to all the well-wishers. Muslims pay visits to their relatives and friends during this time.
25th December, Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, is a National Holiday in Malaysia. It is a joyful occasion enjoyed by all the Christians all over Penang. Prayers and masses start around midnight on Christmas Eve. Also, sometimes short plays on the birth of Jesus Christ are performed inside the church. The streets are decorated with lights. It is a day for sharing for most of the Malaysians.