Gawai Dayak

Gawai Dayak is a festival celebrated annually by the people of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Sarawak, Malaysia, on June 1st and June 2nd. In Sarawak, it is a public holiday with social and religious significance. 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 for 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 was not until 1957 that it was officially recognized, and not until 1963 that it would be declared a public holiday in Sarawak, Malaysia. It is 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 drink a palm wine known as Ai Pengayu and give a toast for long life, prosperity, and health.

On the day of the holiday, longhouses are open to visitors, various celebrations are held, and activities such as blowpipe demonstrations, dancing competitions, and cockfighting 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 (2024)
Next year (2025)
Last year (2023)