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Christmas Special: Christmas Traditions in Malaysia

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

This special feature is written by Melissa Kartini Ariffin Ong

While we certainly aren’t going to get a white Christmas anytime soon, we definitely have our own distinct way of celebrating this famous holiday. From the glittering, festive decorations to the notable tinge of merriment in the air, the approach of Christmas can be felt by all come December. You’d have to be living under a rock to miss it.

So just what precisely makes up a Malaysian Christmas celebration? Let us take a moment to appreciate our version of this iconic holiday.


You definitely know Christmas is coming when shopping malls are done up something pretty- and often in an over-the-top manner too.

Photo credits to: Nuffnang Bloggerati Malaysian Flavours

It is as though these establishments are in competition with each other, which is how we end up with massive yuletide decorations. So don’t be surprised when you’re greeted by towering, coloured lights- wrapped Christmas trees the next time you head to the mall.

And of course, in typical Malaysian fashion, there’ll be crowds of people eager to take selfies with these set-ups!


It just isn’t Christmas without the crazy year-end sales. It is during this time of year that you can see Malaysians crowding malls to get the best deals for their gift-giving needs, and this often means horrendous traffic jams!

Ho ho... ho. Oh well. No pain, no gain.


This is basically a national past-time for us, so it is only natural for it to carry on to one of our biggest holidays too. Be it to admire the sparkling Christmas decorations, to enjoy a good meal with loved ones or to simply luxuriate in the air-conditioning, we all have our reasons for lounging around what is basically our second home.


Not genuine evergreen fir trees, but close enough. While it is not a practice to set up real fir trees in our homes, we do keep artificial ones that we can take out and reuse every single year. Some of them come with their own lights, so we don’t need to take the time to pull out the usual Christmas baubles.

Looks pretty and we get to save a fortune. We Malaysians are pretty economical, eh!


Although Christmas is more of a commercial holiday than a religious celebration in Malaysia, it is still a religious celebration at its very core.

Which is why while some of us are chilling, enjoying some down time, our Christian counterparts are probably in church for midnight mass or Christmas service. A Christmas pageant is usually held before the service commences.


If you think caroling doesn’t exist in Malaysia, think again. Usually held in smaller towns, what happens is that instead of going from house to house like we often see in Christmas movies, Malaysian carolers are usually invited to perform at the homes of the hosts themselves.

To further lighten the atmosphere, free food is provided to the carollers. As per Malaysian hospitality. Some might say the free food is one of the main motivators to participate in this fun holiday gig!


This is only done in certain parts of Malaysia, but it does exist. So don’t be mistaken in thinking that it’s only for Raya, because Christmas open houses are a thing. You just need to know where to look. And exactly like the name suggests, anyone can drop in on these open houses to enjoy some food and drink. It’s the perfect way to get to know your community while getting into the festivities.


Sometimes we get a little lazy, sometimes we just don’t have enough time. Sometimes, we just know that some people prefer money.

Since giving money packets is a totally accepted custom in Malaysia, why not? It means less stress for the gift-giver, and the receiver gets to buy whatever they want too. It’s a win-win situation.


No celebration is complete without family and friends. After all, with how busy everyone is with school and work, the holidays are perfect for everyone to spend quality time together.

So expect large family reunions and calls from friends you’ve not seen in a while to meet up. Christmas will be abuzz with general cheer and activity from morning till night, on top of there being disgruntled complaints from children who are keen to open their presents.


There is nothing quite like celebrating the night (morning?) with a seemingly endless ow of drinks. And when we say drinks, we mean alcoholic drinks.

While we may not have eggnog, we do have a healthy selection of beer, vodka, rum, cocktails and the like to choose from! We guarantee that you’ll see at least more than one happy drunkard before the drinking session ends.

That’s about it. Granted, our version of Christmas might not be the same as the one we see depicted in Western media, but it is ours and ours alone. It is what brings us together to meet our friends and family, and it is definitely a celebration that we look forward to every year. Here is to the coming Christmas, and many more to come!

Nuffnang wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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