to Festivals in Penang
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
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.
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.
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