Official letters in Malaysia are almost always written in Malay and the dates are always written in this format: 1hb Disember, 2010. The ‘hb’ stands for haribulan, which means ‘date’, with hari literally meaning ‘day’ and bulan meaning ‘month’.
The Malay word for ‘date’ is tarikh but when you want to ask someone for, say, today’s date, you don’t ask “Hari ini, tarikh apa ya?”; instead the more common form is “Hari ini berapa haribulan ya?”. The word tarikh is used more in phrases like ‘Tarikh terakhir penerimaan permohonan‘ (Late day of acceptance of applications). You will also find tarikh in application forms, such as date of birth (tarikh lahir) and date of expiry (tarikh luput lesen).
[Side note: In Indonesia, you ask for the date by asking “Hari ini tanggal berapa?”.]
And in case you haven’t noticed it yet, Malaysians follow the European way of writing the date, i.e. in the day-month-year format.
The names of the months in Malay are very easy to remember because they are adapted from the English — Januari, Febuari, Mac (remember: ‘c’ in Malay is pronounced as ‘ch’), April, Mei, Jun, Julai, Ogos, September, Oktober, November, Disember. However, it is also very common for Malaysians to refer to months by number, e.g. saying ‘bulan empat‘ (month 4) when referring to the month of April.
In Malay wedding invitations, it is quite common to see two dates stated in the card — the date based on the Gregorian calendar and the date based on the Hijrah calendar. The card will state something like: “8hb November, 2010 bersamaan 1 Zulhijjah 1431H”.
The Hijrah calendar is the Islamic calendar, which also have 12 months, calculated from the year of the emigration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. And since the Hijrah calendar is lunar-based, this is the reason why the fasting month of Ramadhan changes from year to year, just as the Chinese New Year changes from year to year since the Chinese calendar is partly based on the mean motions of the moon (to be more precise, it is lunisolar, i.e. based on the mean motions of both the moon and the sun).
Incidentally, Malaysia ushers in the 1432nd Islamic New Year tomorrow, the 7th of December 2011. The Islamic New Year is also known as Awal Muharram in Malay or Maal Hijrah in Arabic.
Salam Maal Hijrah kepada semua. Semoga tahun ini akan lebih baik dari tahun lepas dan membawa berkat pada kita semua. Amiin.