Gawai Dayak

Gawai Dayak is a festival that’s celebrated annually by the people of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Sarawak, Malaysia on June 1st and June 2nd. In Sarawak, it’s a public holiday, but also has social and religious significance, too. This harvest festival showcases the customs, traditions, and achievements of the indigenous people and also marks the end of the rice harvesting season. The word Gawai means festival and Dayak is the collective name from the tribes of Bidayuh, Kenyah, Kayan, Murut, and Iban.

The History Of Gawai Dayak

Although this festival has been observed for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until 1957 that it was officially recognized and it wasn’t until 1963 that it would be declared a public holiday in Sarawak, Malaysia. It’s estimated that as many as 4-million people observe this holiday each year.

Observing Gawai Dayak

Unofficially, this holiday begins at the end of May 31st when the ceremony Muai Antu Rua is held to dispel the spirit of greed and to keep at bay the spirit of bad luck. This is to ensure that nothing interferes with the Gawai Dayak Festival. At the stroke of midnight, people will drink a palm wine known as Ai Pengayu and give a toast for long life, prosperity, and health.

On the day of this holiday, longhouses are open to visitors, various celebrations are held and activities such as blowpipe demonstrations, dancing competitions and cock-fighting take place. Other events that can occur on this holiday include concerts, crafts, local cooking demonstrations, and cultural workshops.

Where is it celebrated?
Malaysia (Common local holiday) - Sarawak
When is it?
This year (2023)
Next year (2024)
Last year (2022)