Party every day

And you can take this quite literally in Malaysia. Not only is every day a party because I am on holiday, but because the Malaysians just love to celebrate. This manifests, among other things, in beautiful local girls singing while standing on golden floats, followed by hundreds of people on foot with yellow-covered books on their heads. And nobody was able to tell me what this, obviously religious, festival was all about. Appeasing the Gods? Trying to redirect your own destiny? Or just any old reason to make noise in the street until midnight?

Since my arrival in George Town I’ve been going from party to party. First there was the end of the Ramadan (Hari Raya or ‘Big Day’), which can be compared to our Christmas celebrations in terms of the copious amounts of food, drinks (the non-alcoholic kind, that is), presents, family parties and indigestions.

The day before the Islamic Hari Raya, the Chinese community had started their own celebrations: ‘The party of the Hungry Ghosts’, a month of festivities during which deceased family members return to the living to cause havoc. As surviving relative you can, however, prevent possible problems by offering copious amounts of food. And the spirits are fussy because they want to eat their favourite snacks, which means that food needs to be prepared, to order, in gigantic commercial kitchens. (Of course they wouldn’t be Chinese if they didn’t turn this into something commercial). After a month of indigestions (because afterwards you are allowed to eat your prepared offerings yourself) the Chinese Malaysians are treated to the final event of the festive month -you wouldn’t be able to come up with this name yourself- which they call the ‘Happy Ghosts Festival’. Or what did you think with all these full bellies. Indigestion Festival would have been a great name as well.

Of all the countries in the world, Malaysia has the highest number of national holidays. (They do have fewer leave days on average). This is because each religion (or a whole string of religions) is a recognised, official religion which is why all related festivals are official public holidays. For everybody, of course, there is no discrimination here!


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