For Muslims, the most important festival of the Islamic year is Hari Raya Puasa, a celebration marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Hari Raya Puasa begins with prayers at the mosque early in the morning, followed by a visit to the cemetery to pray for the departed souls of loved ones. This is followed by feasting and celebrations.

For the Chinese the most important festival is the Chinese New Year in January or February. The colourful spectacle features traditional street dances, including the Lion Dance. All debts must be settled and the house spotlessly cleaned before the New Year begins. People give children Ang Pow, a red envelope containing money, with good wishes written on it in gold ink.

For Buddhists, the main festival is Vesak Day, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. It is celebrated on May 25. Buddhists release doves, offer prayers, give alms to Buddhist monks and prepare meals for the needy.

Hindus celebrate a festival of lights called Deepavali, which usually occurs in October. Hindus adorn their houses with lights or oil lamps to signify the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Another festival, Thaipusam, celebrated in January, honours the Hindu deity Lord Murugan. On this day, some Hindus go into a trance and pierce their bodies to show their devotion to the deity.

 Did you know?
Each year the calendar of holidays is different, as most religious holidays do not fall on a fixed date. Islamic holidays are held according to the lunar calendar and fall 10 or 11 days earlier each year. Hindu holidays follow the Hindu calendar. In addition, different parts of Malaysia celebrate their own unique festivals.

The indigenous tribes of Sabah and Sarawak hold harvest festivals, which are characterized by feasting and dancing. In Sabah, the harvest festival is called Kaamatan and is celebrated in May with beauty pageants, dances and religious rituals. In Sarawak, the festival is called Gawai. People drink rice wine and watch the Ngajat Lesong, a dance in which a performer shows his strength and skill by lifting the lesong (the mortar used to pound grain) with his teeth.

Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25 with Christmas trees, decorations, lights, Santa Claus and carols. In the Portuguese settlement of Melaka, a special celebration is the Feast of San Pedro, the patron saint of fishermen, which takes place in late June. The people decorate their fishing boats, which are blessed for the next season's fishing.

January 1 New Year's Day
May 1 Labour Day
March or April Good Friday, Easter Monday
1st Saturday in June King's Birthday
August 31 National Day