Festivals and Events

Penangites are among the most hospitable people in the world – there is always an excuse for a smile, time for a welcome, and willingness to lend a helping hand. Enriched by various ethnic communities co-existing in harmony, Penang is blessed with a multi-faceted culture brought about by the integration of the many races which form its population, with each community making its unique contribution.

It has been said that the true character of a place is defined by its people. If that is true, then Penang's myriad cultural identity must be her most fascinating aspect. Despite the growing pains that accompany modern development, Penang's multi-ethnic communities have managed to preserve to a remarkable degree their traditional way of life, particularly with respect to the observance of cultural and religious festivities, among other things.

With religion being a major part of the lifestyle of Penangites, it is no small wonder that the main festivals of Penang are naturally religious in origin. Within each community, cultural identity is popularly and conspicuously asserted through religious festivals and cultural shows – Bangsawan, Boria, flag processions, the Chingay Parade, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, the Hungry Ghosts Festival, Thaipusam and so forth. Although some of the festivals have largely departed from the versions in their source country, much of their 19th century rituals have been retained, while developing uniquely Malaysian elements.

Penang's multi-cultural composition ensures a succession of colourful, exciting festivals and celebrations that are unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Considering the number of special events, festivals, celebrations, gods and deities' birthdays and religious occasions among the three main race groups (Malays, Chinese and Indians) when one big celebration is finished, another is just about to begin. Penangites are always game for an excuse to celebrate and feast, and there is much enthusiasm, painstaking preparation and merry-making all year round. Thus, Penang sees a kaleidoscope of festivals and celebrations which seems to last the entire year.

Many festivals take place according to the lunar calendar and, as a result, these festivals are celebrated at different times in different years, unlike the fixed dates of holidays like Christmas and Halloween for example. The lunar calendar which most of Asia uses is based on the movement of the moon, whereas the Gregorian calendar used by the rest of the world is based on the movement of the sun.

Possibly nowhere else in the world is there an open-door policy like Malaysia's for religious festivals. Friends of other faiths, whether they be from across the street or across the world, are welcomed into the homes and cultures of celebrants for a short time as their respective religious event is observed. As these festivals are religious in nature, visitors should always remember to accord them the proper respect, in terms of dressing and behaviour.

Despite the distinct ethnic and cultural differences among the various communities, Penangites have developed a sensitivity for, and an understanding of each other. Born of mutual respect for traditions, the high level of culutral and religious tolerance which abounds, never fails to astound visitors. In many ways, the cultural wealth of Penang can be found in the rich festivals of its people.


Fate of Little Penang Street Market uncertain after tomorrow

The Star, Saturday, 29 July 2017

BY AFTER 11 LONG YEARS BEING A VIBRANT, INTERESTING BAZAAR, AND THE FINAL CURTAIN WILL FALL ON THE LITTLE PENANG STREET MARKET (LPSM).

Little Penang Street Market comittee

(From right) LPSM committee members Khoo, Cheah, Ong and MBPP assistant administrative officer Amir Ali showing the press release on the last Little Penang Street Market and its 11th anniversary celebration.

For all the stakeholders, tomorrow will surely be a special occasion as the LPSM will also be celebrating its 11th anniversary.

“This will be the last Little Penang Street Market for us. We do not know what will happen next.

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Little Penang Street Market - more than meets the eye

Little Penang Street Market

To call the Little Penang Street Market a microcosm of Penang and Malaysian cultures is no empty boast. Its multi-faceted makeup has little parallels elsewhere. But it is also an incomplete description. The Street Market isn't merely another weekend shopping spot. Penang already has plenty of those, both traditional and modern, elaborate and simple, for every day of the week. In fact, Penang is such a shopper's paradise that some have been 'moved' to say, in local language "tengok pun dah kenyang" (a Malay phrase meaning that one is sated merely by looking).

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National Day of Malaysia

Merdeka

In 1956, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj led a delegation to London to hold talks with the British Government concerning independence for Malaya.

The Malayan delegation, comprising of four representatives of the Malay Rulers and four Alliance representatives, convinced the British Government to set a date for independence: 31st August 1957.

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Penang Dragon Boat Festival – race of the ancients

Penang Dragon Boat © Adrian Cheah

About 100 years ago, large clans of sea-faring migrants from China settled along the foreshores of Penang island, building pier houses on the fringes of George Town.

Many of these humble coastal plank settlements, like the old Bang Liaw jetty in Weld Quay, still exist till today, housing scores of fisher-folk families just as they did many decades before.

During the early period, every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar, the settlers would push out to sea lengthy specially built boats for a passionate day of racing. It was one of the great traditions they had proudly brought along from China.

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