Thinking of celebrating Chinese New Year somewhere special this year? Look no further than Malaysia, where Chinese culture is deeply rooted in various communities and throughout history. This 2019, Chinese New Year in Malaysia is celebrated from February 5, and is celebrated for 15 days.
Chinese New Year or CNY in Malaysia is a pretty MAJOR deal. In Kuala Lumpur alone, you’ll see one of the biggest festivals celebrating the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Usher in the Year of the Pig with these must-do activities in Malaysia!
Here’s What To Expect and Things to Do During Chinese New Year in Malaysia:
Be Invited to a Reunion Dinner
If you have Chinese Malaysian friends, you can predict that they’d invite you on the 2nd or 3rd day of your celebration as the 1st is reserved for close family. Although you might be a stranger, it’s more than likely you’ll get invited to these intimate gatherings with close-knit families and friends. Because of this momentous occasion, beware of traffic jams and packed buses on the days leading up to the big event; most locals are headed to their hometown.
Join Festivities inside Kuala Lumpur Shopping Mall Areas
Shopping, a mundane task for most people, becomes an activity packed with excitement if you’re doing it during CNY! Behold the golden money trees and bask in the luxury of Imperial Palace replicas inside the malls. Prepare for crazy fun too; there are cool exhibits, displays, photo spots, games, and special products everywhere.
Then, witness some traditional lion and dragon dance performances, acrobatics, and even receive red envelopes called ‘ang pow’ (Filipino version: ampao) as a bonus shopping treat. Hit up any of the following malls to see spectacular displays: Berjaya Times Square, Sunway Putra Mall, Mid Valley Megamall, Pavilion, and Suria KLCC. Try your luck to get more pocket money!
Be Enchanted by the Light-filled Penang Island
Shining, shimmering, splendid. We’re talking about all of the lights in Kek Lok Si Temple, with over 200,000 light bulbs and 10,000 colorful lanterns that engulf the whole island during nighttime. If you’re more of the spiritual type vs the shopping type, make sure to prioritize Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage City. Moreover, there are over 20 clan houses and beautiful temples to visit, each brimming with local Chinese Malaysians who pray in devotion. Enjoy the a moment of silence and contemplation amidst the lively celebrations.
See the Sea of Red Lanterns at Petaling Street Chinatown
It’s fair to assume that Chinatown, given Malaysia’s Chinese ties, is one of the best places to celebrate the start of the year. Enjoy the vivid fireworks display during February 5 onwards at landmarks KLCC Park and Merdeka Square. However, it’s not the loud and obnoxious celebration you might expect, despite the crowds. Locals flock from all over the country to burn incense at Thean Hou Temple, surrounded by a sea of red lanterns, wishing for better health and wealth this year.
- Opening Hours: 10:00am onwards
- Address: Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- How To Get There: From Putra LRT: Pasar Sini Station, take a 5-minute walk. Similarly, you can also take a 5-minute walk from Plaza Rakyat
- Explore Petaling Street Chinatown included on a half-day city tour
Drop by Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen Temple
Venture out to the quaint town of Jenjarom for a visual feast unlike any other. The annual Chinese New Year Lantern & Floral Festival is a sight to behold, stretching over 16 acres of temple grounds. Admire illuminated decorations and lanterns, flotillas, animals and all kinds of digital installations, shining brightly for all travelers to see.
- Opening Hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm
- Cost: Admission is free
- Address: PT 2297, Jalan Sungai Buaya, Kampung Jenjarom, 42600 Kuala Langat, Selangor, Malaysia
Eat Yee Sang for Luck and Money
There’s always that one special dish that always gets served during Chinese New Year. For Filipinos, it’s tikoy (glutinous rice cake). For Malaysians, that dish is called Yee Sang, and the activity called a Prosperity Toss—trust us when we say it’s an extremely fun experience! It’s a Cantonese-style raw fish dish made with various shredded vegetables, which people will toss into the air using their chopsticks. Yep. Consequently, the higher it’s tossed, the more luck, health and wealth you will receive.
- Best Bet for Yee Sang: Alison Soup House—Taste their MSG-free Nyonya Seafood Yee Sang!
- Opening Hours:
- Weekdays: 12:00am – 3:00pm and 6:00pm – 10:00pm
- Weekends: 11:30am – 3:30pm and 6:00pm – 10:00pm
- Address: 6A, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 2, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Witness the romantic tradition of Chap Go Mei
Stick around ’til the 15th night (February 19 this year) of Chinese New Year, locally known as Yuan Xiao (Chinese: 元宵) festival, and discover that the celebrations are far from done! Aside from more lion dancing and lantern making contests, witness this fascinating courtship tradition using Mandarin oranges! How it works: single females throw the tangerines into the sea (with their number written on it). Afterward, single men will hop on boats to find them and hopefully meet these young maidens.
Watch out for this flirtatious event as it takes place in the evening, near Fort Cornwallis in George Town. That’s old-school Tinder for ya.
- Address: Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
What better way to experience eye-opening rituals and cultures which evolved through generations than to join Malaysia’s Chinese New Year? Take part in local traditions, toss up some good fortune via Yee Sang, and embark on a spiritual journey through Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Penang Island. Book that trip to Malaysia and enjoy a prosperous new year, friends!
Essentials you might need for your Malaysia adventure: