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Malaysian celebration

Understanding cultural festivals helps people see their similarities and grow together, says BYUH sophomore Jason Tan

Malaysia’s multicultural atmosphere is made possible through the spirit of Muhibbah, which is a word borrowed from the Arabic language that signifies love and goodwill, according to The BBC website says in Malaysia, this word holds connotations beyond the original meaning and represents togetherness and tolerance.

Jason Tan, a Chinese Malaysian from Selangor, Malaysia, said celebrating the holidays of other cultures has helped him learn to see beyond differences, exemplifying Muhibbah.

The sophomore majoring in computer science said, “... Understanding those special festivals and celebrations helps me see the similarities that we share and the common ground we can build on.”

Malaysia is home to several ethnicities that embrace one another’s culture, says The website Asian Inspiration says, “In the spirit of Malaysia’s multi-cultural identity, many of these cultural and religious festivities are embraced by the community as a whole and celebrated nationwide, regardless of race or belief.”

Mervin Raja, an Indian Malaysian and freshman majoring in computer science, said all cultures are worth celebrating because these celebrations will “build a strong bond and [better understanding].”

Furthermore, according to, Malaysia is ranked fifth on the list of countries with the most public holidays, with 23 to 25 holidays depending on the state.

Career Addict says some of the important holidays in Malaysia include celebrations of the new year, such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year and Deepavali.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Since Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, an Islamic New Year celebration, is one of the most significant events in the country, Asian Inspiration says.

Hari Raya celebrates the conclusion of a month of fasting in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset daily.

Tan said he has always looked forward to Hari Raya Aidilfitri. He said his favorite thing to do during Hari Raya is to go to the night market after the daily fasting periods because that is when he can get delicious finger food and Malay dishes. He added, “On the day of
celebration, after the month of fasting, I visit my friends. Then they give out green packets [of money]. This is very similar in concept to my culture.” According to, red envelopes known as “hongbao” are filled with money and given to children and elderly
adults during Chinese New Year to pass on good wishes and luck.

Pamela Astura Chiping, an Indigenous Bumiputra from Sarawak, Malaysia, shared people don’t have to be a part of the culture to enjoy its holiday. A freshman majoring in business management, Chiping said she enjoys making sticky rice in bamboo for Hari Raya.

Chinese New Year

According to Asian Inspiration, “Aside from Hari Raya, Chinese New Year is the only other festival in Malaysia that is given a two-day nationwide holiday.” This is a time when the country is painted red, as Chinese families and businesses decorate their homes and streets with traditional red decorations to ward off evil spirits, says the site.

After growing up in a Chinese neighborhood as an Indian Malaysian, Raja said he discovered it’s impossible to stay isolated in one own’s culture. He said his favorite moment of Chinese New Year is celebrating it with his Chinese friends. He said, “I always prepare a moon cake and sometimes I’ll make small sweets from Indian culture ... and I’ll bring that to my friend’s house as a feast.”

Jestina Kunie, a senior majoring in business management, shared how fascinating it is looking back and realizing her family has celebrated Chinese New Year due to the influence of the community. Kunie, an Indigenous Bumiputra from Sarawak, Malaysia, said, “My father always brought home boxes of oranges. We would have a big dinner and we would party with other family members.”


Asian Inspiration says no celebration can compare to the Indian festival of Diwali, or Deepavali, as it is known in Malaysia. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” Deepavali represents the triumph of hope and light over darkness, says Asian Inspiration.

When asked which festival stood out to her, Chinese Malaysian Ngee Wen Lim immediately said Deepavali. In preparation for this festive season, Lim said she would usually “clean the whole house, prepare some flowers, lamps, lights and Rangoli [which are multi-new clothes.”

Lim is a freshman from Penang, Malaysia, majoring in social work. She shared having an aunt who married an Indian man has taught her to love her family and culture even more. She shared, “It means a lot to me to celebrate [this] festival, as it unites families.”

After being away from home for almost four years, Christine Chuah, a Chinese Malaysian from Sabah, Malaysia, said she misses the delicious curry her mother made every Deepavali.

Chuah, a senior majoring in social work, said, “Although we didn’t celebrate Deepavali intensively, my family loves to be part of the festival by making good Indian food.”

How Malaysia came to be

Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country consisting of two parts, the Malay Peninsula, and the island of Borneo. Malaysia used to be called “Tanah Melayu,” which translates to “Malay Land.” For hundreds of years, Malaysia, and specifically the state named Malacca, was the central point for people wishing to travel further east and was one of the important sites for trade in Asia, says Trusted Malaysia.

According to Cultural Atlas, many citizens of Malaysia “are descendants of laborers who migrated to Malaysia in the late 19th and early 20th century during British colonial rule. Some now have third- or even fourth-generation roots in the country.”

The formation of the federation of Malaysia by the merger of Malaya and the island of Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak on Sept. 16, 1963, has added to the multiculturalism in the country, says Randwick International of Social Sciences Journal.

According to the World Atlas website, 50.1 percent of the population are Malay, 22.6 percent are Chinese, 11.8 percent are Indigenous Bumiputra groups other than the Malays, 6.7 percent are Indian, and other groups account for 0.7 percent of the population.