National Culture of Malaysia is defined in the "1971 National Culture Policy".
The policy of national culture defines 3 principles as guidelines for 'national culture':
1. The National Culture must be based on the indigenous [Malay] culture
2. Suitable elements from the other cultures may be accepted as part of the national culture
3. Islam is an important component in the moulding of the National Culture.
The Malaysian flag uses the United States flag as a model, hence its similarity. The current version was adopted September 16, 1963. The 14 red and white stripes represent the 14 states within the country. The gold star and crescent are symbols of Islam, and the blue field represents the unity of the Malay people.
Around April annually, if you are travelling in Malaysia, you will suddenly see patches of the hills cleared with many Chinese tombs.
During "Qing Ming" or "Cheng Beng", many Chinese families will visit their ancestors tombs on site to remember or pray as filial homage and for good fortune for the living descendants.
Tombs are on hillside as this is considered as good "fengshui" (Chinese geomancy).
Feb 18, 2007 is the first day of Chinese New Year - the year of the boar.
Spring cleaning starts early in every Malaysian Chinese household and decorations and lanterns are hung.
Red is the color of Chinese New Year. Bringing good luck. Many will wear red on the first day of the year. There are a lot of choice ranging of flower blossoms, red lanterns and other red decor for the gate, door, wall and windows.
Chinese parents also give red packets called "ang pow" to young children and unmarried adults. So if you receive one, just say "Gong Xi Fa Cai".
Feb 18, 2007 is the first day of the new lunar Chinese year.
This year is the Year of the Golden Boar. As you may know there are 12 animals in the Chinese calendars. The first is the Mouse, followed by Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and the 12th is the Boar.
So get a piggy bank to save for a prosperous new year.
Wish your Malaysian Chinese friends, "Happy & Prosperous New Year" or "Gong Xi Fa Cai" (Mandarin), "Gong Hei Fatt Choy" (Cantonese), "Keong Hi Huat Chai" (Hokkien).
Many foreign investors complained that Malaysia has too many public holidays. Yet these holidays of various ethnic groups and religious celebrations add color and vibrancy to the nation and a delight for visiting tourists too. Each State and Federal Territories have 1 or more additional State holidays.
Below are only for nationwide public holidays. Check my tips of respective states for state public holidays.
2006 New Year
1 January Monday
Hari Raya Qurban
*1 January Monday
Awal Muharam (Maal Hijrah)
20 January Saturday
Chinese New Year
Sunday-Monday (& Tuesday)
Prophet Muhammad's Birthday (Maulidur Rasul)
31 March Saturday
1 May Tuesday
1 May Tuesday
Birthday of SPB Yang di-Pertuan Agong
2 June Saturday
31 August Friday
Hari Raya Puasa
*13-14 October Saturday-Sunday
8 November Thursday
Hari Raya Qurban
*20 December Thursday
25 December Tuesday
* Subject to change depending on moon sighting and King's declaration.
If a Public Holiday falls on weekend (Sunday in Kuala Lumpur), the following day shall be a Public Holiday. If this day is already a holiday, then the next day shall be a Public Holiday.
On January 15, 2007, all Tamil Hindus around the world and in Malaysia will be celebarting their new year.
Stalks of sugar cane will be placed at the entrance of the doors of houses. Claypots will be filled with milk and boiled at home. Colorful designs of Kolam of geometric shapes using colored grains of rice on the floor to welcome the new year for the Hindu Tamils.
It is not a public holiday.
This year Thaipusam falls on February 1, 2007. It is a major festival and a public holiday in the states of Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johor where there is a sizeable Malaysian Indian community.
There are several major processions including at Batu Caves, Selangor.
In Penang Island, many Hindus and even non-Hindu Chinese devotees will pay homage to Lord Muruga for answering their prayers by fulfilling their vows or as a penance carrying "kavadis" on their heads or pulling with hooks pierced on the back of their skins. Some have skewers through their cheek or piercing on their tongue and in their trance like state appeared unharmed and not in pain.
The Silver Chariot of Lord Muruga pulled by bulls will travel from the Hindu Temple at Queens Street through the streets of George Town to the temple on the hill at Botanical Gardens. Thousands of coconuts are broken to cleanse the path before the chariot pass. You will the streets covered with broken coconut shells.
Along Waterfall Road, there will be many beautifully decorated stalls with kolam on the road and Indian music in the air. Many other devotees come in their beautiful saris to watch the procession. Beggars are everywhere lining along the stairs the devotees will climb to this hillside temple near Penang Botanical Gardens.
Then the Silver Chariot will make it return journey until the next year's celebration.
So on a typical day for the rest of the yea, these stairs are empty as in the picture. But come Thaipusam, it will be thronged by devotees as well as tourists taking pictures.
In all the states of Malaysia, especially near some of the outdoor tourist destinations, you will see this sign "Kem Latihan" (Training Camp) which is for "Program Khidmat Malaysia" (National Service Program). There are over 43 training centers.
These are training camps started in 2003 for Malaysian youths of both gender upon reaching 18 years of age whom are randomly selected to attend for 3 months of classroom classes, community service, outdoor physical training, drills and recently including handling of M16 . The idea is promote patriotism, unity and discipline amongst Malaysian youths.
Offical website: http://www.khidmatnegara.gov.my/
I have been often asked this question. Malaysia's official religion is Islam while many other communities are free to worship other religions including Christianity.
Christmas is considered as a festival season by many Malaysians. Many attend Christmas dinners or parties even though they are not Christians.
So you will hear Christmas carols and decorations in all the major shopping centers and hotels. And you will see a Malaysian Santa Claus too.
Other American festivities celebrated in major cities include Valentine's Day and Halloween as themes in entertainment outlets. American Thanksgiving is not well known.
All over Malaysia, in major shopping malls, there are massage chairs of different price range on display and to try out for potential customers.
It is not uncommon to see many locals trying them out after a long day of walking and shopping. It is part of a sales promotion as well a chance to try out a new gadget.
And so if you need some "free" massaging, why not test out these massage chairs.
If you see this above the door, you will know that this is a home of a Muslim with a Quranic phrase in Arabic.
All Malays in Malaysia profess Islam. There is a sizeable number of Indian Community who are Muslim and are commonly known as "Mamak". Also there are Muslim converts of Chinese and other indigeneous communities of Malaysia.
So in Malaysia, all Malays are Muslim but not all Muslims are Malay.
For some Chinese family, a Taoist mirror of octagonal shape is placed above the door.
This is to ward away evil spirits from disturbing the household. Many Chinese also believe in fengshui as to where it best direction a house should face, the location of the bedroom and the bed's position.
If you see this above the door, you can be sure that family inside is a Chinese family who believe in Taoism and supersitious too. Chinese who are of some Buddhist sects or Christians will not have this symbol above their door.
For some Hindu flats, a picture of the Hindu Diety Ganesha is placed over the door.
Ganesha has a body of person and a head of an elephant.
Also known as Lord of Succcess, the picture of Ganesha wil keep evils away and overcomne obstacles.
So if you see this picture over the door, you can be more or less certain that this is flat of of an Indian family who are Hindus even before the door is open.
It used to be a common childhood hobby and adult pursuit of have a fish fight with male Malayan fighting fish. The Siamese fighting fish are more colorful with larger fins and tails. Each male fighting fish is kept separate and confronted by another male or a mirror image of itself, will expand open its jaws and fins into an aggressive mode. There are side bettings on which fish will win.
Similarly, there are fighting spiders kept in matchboxes. And fighting cocks bred with small blades tieds to its feets to make the fight more brutal.
Sounds cruel. But now everyone is on computer games. You can still buy fighting fish in local aquariums although we used to catch our own in the wild.
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