Gawai Dayak is a festival that is celebrated by the Dayak community in Malaysia on 31st May and 1st June. It is a festival of solidarity and trust, and denotes the end of the rice harvest, ushering in a year of goodness.
The festival was first celebrated in June 1965, with colourful ceremonies, conventional music, chicken fights, and other forms of amusement. During the festivities, almost everybody is dressed in beautiful clothes, performing a traditional dance called the Ngajat.
Today, things are done a little differently. Drinking of Tuak, a provincially prepared rice wine, is a new practice during the celebrations. Tuak is also raised as a toast to welcome guests who come calling on this special day.
Traditionally, celebrations start on the 31st of May. In most houses, the tribal people perform a ceremony to cast off the spirit of greed. Then, they collect unwanted articles in a basket, which are then thrown away to ward off bad luck. As the second day of celebration dawns, the major festivities slowly start, with the sound of music filling the air along with the sweet scent of gaiety.
The festival is a good time to visit Sarawak, the largest state of Malaysia, located on the island of Borneo. Here, you can experience the festival like never before. You can also visit the traditional longhouses of Borneo, where the Dayaks dwell. The longhouses are decorated elaborately during the festival, with colourful murals and mats brightening the Dayak’s normally simple dwellings.
It is never a special occasion without special food, and Gawai Dayak is as special as it gets. It is a time of year when traditional cakes and delicacies are generously plated up and shared with guests.
All in all, Gawai Dayak is for the fun-loving traveller. Make sure you have it listed as a must-visit in your itinerary.
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