Penang, with diverse cultures, languages hosts exciting festivals and events throughout the year. All major religious festivals are celebrated here in Penang, Malaysia. Penang also hosts unique festivals like the International Dragon Boat Festival, where participants from all parts of the world participate.
Here is a list of various religious festivals celebrated in Malaysia.
Beginning of Spring
Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year)
Lantern Festival (Chap Goh Meh)
Qing Ming Festival (Cheng Beng)
Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival)
Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine's Day)
Hungry Ghost Festival
Nine Emperor Gods Festival
Dongzhi Festival (Tang Chek Festival)
Puthandu (Tamil New Year / Vaisakhi)
Deepavali (Diwali / Festival of Lights)
Islamic New Year (Maal Hijrah / Awal Muharam)
Israk dan Mikraj
Awal Ramadan (Awal Berpuasa)
Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Hari Raya Puasa)
Hari Raya Aidiladha (Hari Raya Haji)
New Year's Day
Here is more information about major festivals and events celebrated in Penang, Malaysia.
Thaipusam is a dramatic Hindu festival celebrated every year on the full moon in Tamil month of Thai (January/February). A procession marks the eve of Thaipusam with a silver chariot carrying the image of Lord Subramaniam. The crowds break coconuts and offer fruits, flowers and money when the procession stops at every Hindu shrine. On Thaipusam day, kavadi bearers start a procession from the 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.
Chinese New Year
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.
Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year)
Awal Muharram also called the Hijri New Year is the day that marks the beginning of a new year. It is celebrated by attending Koran reading performances and religious talks.
Festival of the Heavenly God or Jade Emperor
The birthday of the 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 the Jade Emperor. People gather at the foot of Penang Hill next to the Lower Station at night. It is celebrated by making offerings to Yu Huang at different temples.
Chnea Hoay (Flame-watching ceremony)
Celebrated in Tanjong Tokong at the Hai Choo Soo (Sea Pearl) Temple. Chnea Hoay is Hokkien word for flame-watching. The ceremony generally starts at 11.00pm on the Chap Goh Meh (15th day of Chinese New Year). Oil lamps, candles are put off to watch the intensity of the flames. This ceremony is also celebrated in the Snake Temple (Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong Temple).
Hari Raya Haji (Berkorban)
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.
The Sikh New Year, Vaisakhi, is celebrated 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 place in Penang. Vaisakhi ends with a meal for the worshippers.
Panguni Uthiram Varusha
Panguni Uttiram Varusha is celebrated on the full moon day of Panguni according to the Tamil calendar. This is an important festival for Tamil Hindus. It is devoted to the marriage of Theivani to Lord Subramaniam and of Siva to Shakti.
Cheng Beng (Qingming Festival)
Cheng Beng or Qingming festival, also called Tomb-Sweeping Day, is celebrated on 4 / 5 / 6h April by the Chinese community. On this day, Chinese people visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray and make offerings include traditional food, burning of joss sticks/paper.
Birthday of the Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea
The 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 their prayers before setting on a journey. The day she died, a beautiful rainbow was seen on Meizhou Island.
Prophet Mohamad's Birthday
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.
Vesak Day (Wesak Day)
Vesak Day (Buddha Day) is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. It occurs around the traditional timing of Vesak. Buddhist devotees visit the temple, offer prayers, light candles and release doves. The day is celebrated with candle procession.
Birthday of the Goddess of Mercy
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 second birthday falls on the 19th day of the 6th Chinese lunar month, and the third birthday falls on the 19th day of the 9th Chinese 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 (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 at night.
Mooncake festival (Mid-autumn festival) is celebrated during the end of September or early October. It is the biggest festival for Chinese people in Malaysia. 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, people walk with paper lanterns, mooncakes on the streets.
The Masi Maham Festival
The Masi Magam Festival is celebrated at the Sri Singamuga Kaliaman Temple in Teluk Bahang. There is a kavadi procession followed by dance performances by youngsters. 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 seated on a raft is pulled by a boat. The statue stays in the sea for an hour. Holy ash is distributed among the devotees, and the procession ends with fireworks.
Varusha Pirappu (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.
Birthday of Chor Soo Kong
Every year, devotees gather at the Penang Snake Temple during the birthday celebrations of Chor Soo Kong which occurs on the 6th days of the first, sixth and eleventh months of the Chinese lunar calendar.
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.
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 from sunrise to sunset from food, water and other drinks, smoking and intimate intercourses from the twilight till the sunset.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
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 devotees. Muslims pay visits to their relatives and friends to celebrate this day.
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 from 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 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.
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, Malaysia. Prayers and masses start around midnight on Christmas Eve. Also, sometimes short plays on the birth of Jesus Christ are performed in the church. The streets are decorated with lights.