National Day, previously also known as Hari Merdeka, Merdeka Day or Independence Day, originated on 31 August 1957, which was the day on which the Malayan federation (today’s west Malaysian states) gained independence from Britain.
Sabah & Sarawak did not participate in this particular date in history, as Sarawak would only gain their independence on 22 July 1963, and Sabah theirs on 31 August that same year. Ever since, Merdeka Day is celebrated nationwide, with parades and activities of all sorts in cities throughout Malaysia.
Over the last few years Merdeka Day’s irrelevance to east Malaysia has become more widely known and somewhat controversial amongst the less ignorant, especially as big corporations would use the years since 1957 to celebrate “Malaysia’s birthday” in their marketing. Last year, in a stubborn attempt to continue celebrating the increasing divisive holiday whilst trying to mitigate the controversity around it, it was renamed National Day.
Half-hearted celebrations on 16 September, which is Malaysia Day and the actual date on which Malaysia as a country came to be, have only served to underline a country divided under the current political regime. National Day remains a prominent, lavish celebration, with Malaysia Day in its shadow, barely observed by official structures, and regarded by many as little more than just an extra public holiday.