PETALING JAYA: Malaysians should visit open houses during Chinese New Year and celebrate the festive occasion together to strengthen the unity among various ethnic groups, says the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister.

Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said the major festivals in Malaysia are usually celebrated with open houses, which are well known for being welcoming and inclusive.

“This has laid a solid foundation for goodwill, understanding, mutual respect and tolerance among all ethnic groups,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He added that Malaysian-Chinese preserved many traditions of the Lunar New Year – for example, dragon and lion dances.

“For many celebrations, auspicious occasions, festivals, banquets, and opening ceremonies in Malaysia, the organisers will likely invite lion dance performers to lend an air of celebratory pomp, which is loved and enjoyed by all ethnic groups in Malaysia,” he said.

Tiong said that dragon and lion dance performances had a history of over 100 years in Malaysia.

“Although inherited from China, Malaysia has incorporated this artistic performance into its unique forms within our local culture,” he said.

In fact, he said Malaysia had its own internationally renowned versions of the dance.

“The troupes are well sought-after performers,” he added.

Tiong also said the government had listed the high-pole lion dance as a national cultural heritage in 2007 to encourage domestic cultural activities and acknowledge the status of lion dance culture in the country.

“The high-pole lion dance also demonstrates the integration of Malaysian-Chinese culture into the national culture.

“In recent years, many other ethnic groups have joined in learning lion dance skills,” he said.