Harvest Festival in Malaysia (Labuan And Sabah)
In Labuan and Sabah, Malaysia, there’s a harvest festival that’s observed every year known as Tadau Kaamatan — or in English, the Harvest Festival. This festival is a traditional cultural event and celebration that marks the conclusion of the harvest season in the region.
Because of this fact, it’s a festival that features a ton of food and rice wine and is celebrated with bright clothing and lively processions. There’s also traditional folk dancing and other events as well. It’s a holiday that is observed with a lot of enthusiasm among the ethnic tribes in Malaysia and is one of the more important holidays of the year.
The History of Harvest Festival In Malaysia
The Harvest Festival in Malaysia is one that predates the arrival of Islam or Christianity in the region. It’s deeply rooted in the indigenous communities of Sabah, of the states that are found in Eastern Malaysia.
The origin of this holiday is linked to the animistic beliefs and agricultural practices of the indigenous Murut and Kadazandusun tribes, who are the main indigenous groups found in Sabah. Although this festival is no longer associated with animism, it is a way for the community to seek blessings and give their thanks to the spirits of a successful harvest.
Of course, the introduction of Islam and Christianity to the region helped to make the festivals more colorful as elements of these religions were incorporated in with its more traditional celebrations. This happened over many decades as the festival, as well as all of Malaysia began to modernize.
During the mid-1960s, there was an attempt to turn Harvest Festival into more of a cultural celebration In 1962, it was recognized as a statewide public holiday in Sabah, but since then, it has obtained prominence all throughout Malaysia. Ever since, the Malaysian government has worked hard in not only promoting this festival but also preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
Observing Harvest Festival In Malaysia
This holiday is observed at the end of the rice planting cycle, which symbolizes the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a new planting season. Festivities occur over a 3-day period and feature a variety of colorful rituals and sporting events.
There’s a traditional folk dance that’s known as Sumazau, a bamboo dance known as Magunatip, and bamboo stilt walking known as Rampanau. Other events on this day include knuckle wrestling (Mipulous), a tug of war (Migayat), and a singing competition known as Sugandoi.
There is also a beauty pageant known as Unduk Ngadau that happens sometime during this festival. In both Sabah and Labuan, food plays a pivotal role in the festivities. A dish that’s often served is rice that’s mixed with cassava, sweet potato, yam, or pumpkin and then placed into leaves.
This dish is known as Linipot. Another dish that’s often served is called Hinava. This dish is made with fresh fish, lime juice, and bitter gourd. Other dishes served on this day include a starchy dish made from the sago palm tree called Ambuyat, and a special cake that’s made with glutinous rice, coconut, and palm sugar called Montoku.
Of course, the star of the show for this festival is rice wine. This home-brewed wine is made in clay jars and often served with straws. All across the 3-day period of this festival, rice wine competitions are held to give prizes to the people who make the best rice wine. On social media, the hashtag #HarvestFestivalMalaysia or #TadauKaamatan can be used to tell other people about this amazing festival and its colorful activities.