31 August 1957 marks the day that the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British colonization, forming what we know of today as Malaysia. Hence, 31 August is a National Public Holiday to commemorate and celebrate the freedom and independence gained.
This day is also known as Hari Merdeka in the Malay language and that is why the celebration of Independence Day is incomplete without the seven shouts of “Merdeka!”. This gesture was initiated by the First Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman back in 1957 at Dataran Merdeka.
Although it is only a one day public holiday, the celebration builds up from a month before right up to Malaysia Day which is on the 16th of September.
During this whole month of August, also known as the Merdeka month, you will see most Malaysians express their patriotism and love towards their culturally unique country by raising the Malaysian flag on their vehicles, balcony of their homes and even along the streets! It is also during this time that government buildings all over Kuala Lumpur and most shopping malls are hoisted with the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang.
The whole build up towards Malaysia’s Independence Day is celebrated with pride and joy where competitions and parades will be held; sometimes school children practice for performances which will be presented during Independence Day itself.
Every year there is a specific theme for Independence Day. Previous years, the themes were “My Glorious Malaysia”, “1Malaysia: Transforming the Nation”, “55 Years of Independence: Promises Fulfilled” and etc. These themes will be reflected in the decorations and focus for Independence Day that year.
In short, Independence Day serves as a reminder to all Malaysians to appreciate the tough fight our ancestors had fought and to educate the current generation about the spirit of Independence.