Deepavali 2022 in Penang Queensbay Mall

Deepavali decorations at Queensbay Mall.

Deepavali (or may known as Diwali in other parts of the world), is an important festival of lights celebrated by Hindus. As one of the major festivals of the year in Malaysia, it is also an official holiday. It is a time for the Hindus to celebrate via their traditional customs at their homes as well as having a family reunion. This year, Deepavali falls on October 24th.

Penang Thaipusam

Pre-Covid scenes from the Penang Thaipusam festival held in 2019.

During the festival, the breaking of the coconuts is a ritual practiced by Hindus as an act of cleansing and also to symbolize the renounce of one’s ego at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Muruga (usually carried on a chariot). The most notable or intriguing scene from this festival is the kavadi-bearers, devotees who usually had their bodies pierced while undergoing a pilgrimage during the festival.

Thaipusam this year is on 18 January.

Cheng Beng (Qing Ming) Festival

Every year usually during the month of March or April, Chinese locals will be paying respect to their ancestors during the Qingming Festival (also known as Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Bright Festival). Qingming Festival is also commonly known as Cheng Beng by the local Hokkiens in Penang.

A Chinese tradition, the Qingming Festival is an opportunity for members of a family to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.

Penang Perspective: George Town’s Chinese New Year Celebration

The annual Chinese New Year celebration which is held in George Town’s heritage area. The celebration usually features various traditional arts and performance of the local Chinese culture.

Penang CNY: The Jade Emperor Birthday (Weld Quay)

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Today marks the birthday of the Jade Emperor deity.

During the Chinese New Year’s 15-days period in Penang, the celebration for the birthday of the Jade Emperor will fall on the 9th lunar day of Chinese New Year. This day is particularly celebrated a lot by the Hokkien community in Penang and is also commonly referred to as the Hokkien New Year. There will be lots of prayers, food offerings and various festivities held for the Jade Emperor on this day. Two popular areas in Penang where this day is celebrated are the Jade Emperor Pavilion temple at Ayer Itam and the Clan Jetties area at Weld Quay, George Town.

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The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival

The 8.3 meters tall effigy of the King of Hades (or Tai Su Yeah) where devotees offered prayers to, during the 7th lunar month of the Chinese calendar in conjunction with The Hungry Ghost month.

This giant effigy was placed under a shelter beside a temple at Market Street of Bukit Mertajam old town, for 15 days until the annual Bukit Mertajam Phor Thor (Hungry Ghost Festival) celebration. The effigy will then be moved out to the street and burned on the festival day.

According to the Taoist belief, when the gates of hell open in the 7th lunar month, spirits would be freed to the living world while being watched by Tai Su Yeah. The Hungry Ghost Festival this year started from August 14 until September 12.

Lion Dance: New Lions Ritual

Lion Dance Ceremony

A lions ‘eye-dotting’ ritual and ceremony organized by Penang Wushu Lion & Dragon Dance Association. Most lions found in Penang are of the Southern Lions design and style.

“A new lion usually undergoes an eye-dotting ritual which gives the lion its ‘spirit’, because it must be brought to life and filled with a spirit through a religious ceremony. This is most of the times by a Taoist ceremony but it can be performed by any person with a high social status. The areas to be dotted with red pigment called “Zhu Sha” are the eye, ears ,nose, horn, feet, and the body; usually only the eyes are done in a public ceremony. The light in its eyes resembles that the lion’s eyes have been opened with a spirit and the shield reflects the good light from the heavens, although other explanations can be given for the mirror.”

Lion Dance Ceremony

Lion Dance Ceremony

Lion Dance Ceremony

Lion Dance Ceremony

6th Malaysia Tua Pek Kong Festival

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On the last weekend, September 13 to 15, George Town hosted the 6th Malaysia Tua Pek Kong festival which was organized by the Poh Hock Seah temple community. There was also a Tua Pek Kong Procession with over 50 decorated floats from China, Taiwan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Macau and from East Malaysia too, held on 14th September. A similar procession was also held some years back.

Tua Pek Kong or Twa Peh Kong was reportedly a man named Zhang Li from the Hakka clan. His Sumatra-bound boat was struck by wind and accidentally landed on Penang island of Malaysia, which at that time had only 50 inhabitants. After his death, the local people began worshipping him and built the Tua Pek Kong temple there.