Deepavali – Celebrating the Light
Squatting at a corner of King Street amid the human bustle of Penang's Little India, Manickam P. sorts through a giant pile of fresh green banana leaves.
Clad in baggy khaki shorts and a sweat-soaked singlet, he seems to take no notice of either the automobiles that incessantly purr past or the hundreds of human apparitions that mill by him. The elderly odd-job worker certainly has his work cut out for him nowadays.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Penang
How far would you go for your belief – undergo a nine-day vegetarian diet, walk on fire or even pierce a long spear through your cheeks? Or are you an armchair devotee who prefers to remain in your comfort zone and observe from afar? Would the younger generation know what the festival is all about and would youths pause to find out more?
Of lanterns and mooncakes
"The Chinese people have never demanded a clear separation of the worlds of myth and reality – indeed, they are so closely bound up that it is hard to say where one begins and the other ends." – An Introduction to Oriental Mythology, Clio Whittaker et al
"The moon, along with fine wine and beautiful women, is a favourite topic for the Chinese poets." – Chinese proverb
Ramadhan – a time for reflection
Once again, Ramadhan, the holiest of months for Muslims, is almost upon us. The ninth month of the Muslim year is strictly observed by all Muslims as a month of fasting (and abstinence) during which they would abstain from the pleasures of eating, drinking and carnal desires and actions from sunrise to sunset. Ramadhan usually lasts from 29 to 30 days, after which Muslims celebrate Id-al-Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa in local language). Fasting is one of the five basic duties of Islam.
Hari Raya Open House
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes an open house as "a social event in which hospitality is extended to all." This could be taken to mean that the diplomacy of inviting one and all to your house to celebrate an event is not an unfamiliar practice. But one could conjecture that no where else in the world would you find an open house event as big and as merry as the ones held in Malaysia.
Hungry Ghosts roam the Streets of George Town
Hungry Ghost also known as the Phor Thor festival is an annual month-long celebration observed by the Chinese enclaves not only in Penang but also throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Phuket.
Merdeka – the National Day of Malaysia
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.
Penang Dragon Boat Festival – race of the ancients
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.
Tides of candlelight adoration at St. Anne's Feast
One of the largest and most extraordinary religious mass gatherings in Southeast Asia is the St Anne Novena and Feast in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang.
The journey of faith – the Haj
Hari Raya Haji (or Hari Raya Korban) falls on the 10th day of Zulhijah, the last month of the Muslim calendar. It is a major Islamic festival and of particular significance for pilgrims who have returned from performing the Haj or umrah (pilgrimage) in Mecca. It may not as grand as Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (or Hari Raya Puasa) in terms of joyous celebration, but is important nonetheless for Muslims the world over.