Multicultural Malaysia celebrates a vast range of festivals, but the ones to look out for nationwide are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadhan. During its 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from passing anything through their lips (food, drink, smoke) between sunrise and sunset. People get up early to stuff themselves before sunrise (sahur), go to work late if at all, and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa) at sunset. At the end of the month is the festival of Hari Raya Puasa, also known as Aidilfitri, when pretty much the entire country takes a week or two off to head back home to visit family; this is the one time of year when Kuala Lumpur has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, and traveling around Malaysia is best avoided if at all possible.
Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims travelling (musafir), are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open maintain a low profile. Business travellers will notice that things move rather more slowly than usual and, especially towards the end of the month, many people will take leave. The upside for the traveller is the bustling Ramadhan bazaars in every city and town, bustling with activity and bursting at the seams with great food. Hotels and restaurants also pull out all stops to put on massive spreads of food for fast-breaking feasts.
Some uniquely Malaysian festivals of note include the Harvest Festival at the end of May each year and the 'Pesta Gawai' in early June, both thanksgiving celebrations held in East Malaysia.
Other major holidays include Chinese New Year (around February), the Buddhist holiday of Wesak (around June), Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights (around November) and Christmas.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that falls in January or February and is one of the must-see events. The largest procession in the country takes place at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. Devotees carry decorated altars or kavadi up a flight of 272 steps towards the temple, all this while also having spears and hooks pierced through various parts of their bodies. This masochistic practice does not harm the devotees in any way! The ability is attributed to divine intervention and religious fervour.
Public Holidays 2018
• Jan 1 - New Year's Day
• Jan 3 - The Prophet Muhammad's Birthday
• Feb 1 - Federal Territory Day
• Feb 2 - Federal Territory Day observed
• Feb 3 - Thaipusam
• Feb 19 - Chinese Lunar New Year's Day Federal
• Feb 20 - Second day of Chinese Lunar New Year Federal
• Mar 20 - March equinox
• Apr 3 - Good Friday
• Apr 5 - Easter Sunday
• May 1 - Labour Day
• May 3 - Wesak Day
• May 16 - Isra and Mi'raj
• May 30 - Harvest Festival
• May 31 - Harvest Festival Day 2
• Jun 6 - The Yang di-Pertuan Agong's Birthday
• Jun 18 - Ramadan begins
• Jun 21 - June Solstice
• Jul 4 - Nuzul Al-Quran
• Jul 7 - Georgetown World Heritage City Day
• Jul 11 - Penang Governor's Birthday
• Jul 17 - Hari Raya Puasa Day 1
• Jul 18 - Hari Raya Puasa Day 2
• Aug 31 - Malaysia's National Day
• Sep 16 - Malaysia Day Federal Public Holiday
• Sep 23 - September equinox
• Sep 24 - Hari Raya Haji
• Sep 25 - Hari Raya Haji holiday
• Oct 14 - Muharram/New Year
• Nov 10 - Diwali/Deepavali
• Dec 22 - December Solstice
• Dec 24 - The Prophet Muhammad's Birthday
• Dec 24 - Christmas Eve
• Dec 25 - Christmas Day
• Dec 31 - New Year's Eve