Gawai Dayak around the world in 2024

Gawai Dayak around the world in 2024
Gawai Dayak parade. Image via Flickr
  How long until Gawai Dayak?
Gawai Dayak
  Dates of Gawai Dayak around the world
2024 MalaysiaJun 1, Jun 2, Jun 3
Sarawak Mon, Jun 3Regional Holiday
Sarawak Sun, Jun 2Regional Holiday
Sarawak Sat, Jun 1Regional Holiday
2023 MalaysiaJun 1, Jun 2
Sarawak Fri, Jun 2Regional Holiday
Sarawak Thu, Jun 1Regional Holiday
2022 MalaysiaJun 1, Jun 2
Sarawak Thu, Jun 2Regional Holiday
Sarawak Wed, Jun 1Regional Holiday
2021 MalaysiaJun 1, Jun 2
Sarawak Wed, Jun 2Regional Holiday
Sarawak Tue, Jun 1Regional Holiday
2020 MalaysiaJun 1, Jun 2
Sarawak Tue, Jun 2Regional Holiday
Sarawak Mon, Jun 1Regional Holiday
  Summary

Sarawak. Dayak Festival is a major harvest festival celebrated over two days

Related holidays

When is Gawai Dayak?

Gawai Dayak is a regional public holiday in the Malaysian state of Sarawak observed on June 1st and 2nd.

This holiday is a harvest festival used to showcase the heritage and traditions of the indigenous people.

Traditions of Gawai Dayak

Gawai Dayak comes from Gawai meaning festival and Dayak are the native people of Borneo, the largest island in Asia.

The festival may have originated in centuries-old agricultural traditions, but the origins of the modern festival date back to the early 1960s when it was first introduced as a way to celebrate Dayak traditions and culture after decades of colonial rule.

As early as 1957, the idea of an annual festival specially designated for all the Dayak people in Sarawak, Malaysia and West Kalimantan to be fixed on a certain date close to the rice harvest season, had been openly proposed over the airwaves of Radio Sarawak by two broadcasters, Tan Kingsley and Owen Liang.

However, the British colonial government instead suggested Sarawak Day as a day for all Sarawakians as a ‘National Day’ regardless of ethnic origin.

Dato Sri Tra Zehnder was Council Negri Sarawak’s first appointed female member in 1957, and one of her first demands was to call on the colonial government to recognise the existence of the Dayaks by declaring one day in a year as ‘Gawai Dayak’, preferably June 1 every year.

Datuk Michael Buma, a Betong native and chairman of Machinda Party took it one step further.

He hosted the celebration of the very first Gawai Dayak at his home in Siol Kandis, Kuching on June 1, 1963.

Gawai Dayak has been gazetted as a public holiday in Sarawak since June 1st 1965.

The festival focuses on food and drink, dancing and the wearing of traditional dress.

Though not a Christian festival, many Dayak converted to Christianity in the past, so local churches celebrate the occasion with special masses, in which elements of tribal prayers are inserted, songs and dances. Many parishioners wear traditional clothes and at the end of the ritual local dishes are served, as thanks for the good harvest.

Sarawak, on the northwest of Borneo, is the largest of Malaysia's 13 states by area.

Gawai is preceded on Borneo by Kaamatan, another ethnic harvest festival celebrated in Sabah on May 30th and 31st.


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