Penang has a whole host of exciting festivals and events lined up throughout the year. Just like any other state in Malaysia, Penangites celebrate all the major religious festivals, namely Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha (Muslims), Chinese New Year and Wesak Day (Buddhists), and Deepavali and Thaipusam (Hindus).
Penang, having such a large Chinese population, often plays host to many colourful Chinese events and festivals, which are not normally celebrated widely in other parts of the country.
On Wesak Day, thousands of Chinese take to the temples to celebrate the origin of the Buddhist religion. At night, there is even a procession of floats, flowers and flags starting from Burmah Road.
Certain festivals are unique to Penang, such as the International Dragon Boat Festival, where participants from across the world take part in an annual Chinese dragon boat race, and the Penang Festival, a yearly jamboree celebrating the island's colourful heritage.
Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2016
Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2016 is a two-day event that takes place in Georgetown’s Padang Polo, where visitors can enjoy fun-filled activities and marvel at cool hot air balloons floating in the sky. Similar to Adirondack Hot Air Balloon Festival in the US, expect to see an array of unique designs such as a gigantic ice-cream cone, an orange, and a space rocket.
Held on 9th and 10th February, the event features 15 hot air balloons from the US, Belgium, Thailand, South Korea, and Netherlands. Best of all, you can also enjoy a vertigo-inducing ride in one of the three tethered balloons or explore the interior of a cold inflation balloon.
- Opening Hours: 9th & 10th February, 2016, 06:00 – 21:00
- Location: Padang Polo, Georgetown, Penang
- Price Range: Free for general admission, RM25 for tethered balloon ride, RM5 for cold inflation balloon
George Town Festival 2016 (August 1 – 31)
Known as the most highly anticipated cultural event on Penang Island, George Town Festival celebrates art, dance, film and music for the entire month of August!
George Town Festival (Saturday to Monday, August 1st-31st) is an exciting month-long celebration of local art, music, theatre, dance, and film in Penang. The event started back in 2009 as a series of arts and cultural events to commemorate Georgetown’s listing as a UNESCO Heritage Site before becoming one of Malaysia’s most high-anticipated cultural events of the year.
Bon Odori Festival
Organised by the Malaysian Japanese Society, the Bon Odori Festival is the Japanese version of the Chinese's Hungry Ghost Festival, where Japanese expatriates both young and old take part in this carnival-like festival to pay homage to their descendants.
- Remarks: Visit www.visitpenang.gov.my for more information on the dates and venues each year.
Nine Emperor God Festival
The worship of Nine Emperor Gods (Known as Kew Ong Yah in Hokkie, and Koh Wong Yeh in Cantonese) is very prevalent in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
Every year, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is held for nine days, from the first day to the ninth day of the 9th lunar month. This is when the spirits of the Nine Emperor Gods which are believed to dwell in the starts, descend to earth and possess the spirits mediums, putting them in a trance.
During the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, many devotees will go on a vegetarian diet. Stalls are set up to sell vegetarian food, vegetarian cake and goodies. An opera show will also be performed as a mark of respect to the Gods.
During the 9 days, you will be able to witness a variety of events like the Spear Skewing Ceremony, the Making of the Herbal Medicine and the Fire walking Ceremony. These rituals are spectacular, extraordinary but yet challenging.
Penang International Dragon Boat Race
Attracting participants from all over the world since its inception in 1979, this annual event was created as a way to venerate the celestial dragon of the Chinese culture. Originating from China, dragon boat festivals are now being held in various locations around the globe. Watch colourful boats fitted with decorative dragon heads race each other accompanied by the loud and rhythmic thumping of the drums.
Race dates vary every year.
- Remarks: www.penangdragonboat.gov.my - for more information
Penang International Floral Festival
This is the time of the year where Penang Botanical Gardens is covered with flowers in different shapes, sizes and colours.
The highlight of this festival is a beautiful parade made up of elaborately-decorated floral floats.
- Remarks: Visit www.visitpenang.gov.my for more information on the dates and venues every year.
St. Anne's Festival
Held every year on 29 July, the St. Anne’s Festival is an annual event where Penang’s Catholics congregate in St. Anne's Church to pay homage to their patron saint.
At night, there is a candlelight procession by thousands of devotees on the church grounds.
Organised by the Malaysian Buddhist Association, Penang’s Buddhists will take to the streets around Jalan Burmah in a night-long procession to celebrate the founding and founder of their religion.
Taking place every year, the date on which Wesak Day falls depends on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
- Tel: (604) 262 0202