Celebrated mid year on June 1 and 2, though unofficially the festivities begin during the last week of May and continue through mid-June. Usually, the people of many longhouses harvest their rice fields well before the big day and have their own small scale Gawai feast at the end of their harvests.
Celebrated by the Dayak, which generally refers to the Iban,
Bidayuh and the Orang Ulu communities in Sarawak. The elders perform traditional rites, everyone dresses in their traditional costumes and there is food and drink. Tuak, rice wine, and an array of traditional food are generously served along the ruai, veranda,
and bilik, room, in every longhouse. Widespread celebrations are held not only in the main cities and towns but also in the interior settlements. Gawai is an occasion for parties, fun and games, processions and ‘open houses’. At rural dwellings, especially in roadside villages and remote villages, guests are expected to taste tuak and eat at each household. Thus in a 30 door longhouse with
a family living behind each door, it means partaking in festivities
over and over again. Music and dancing usually follow to
liven up the mood.
In Kuching, celebrations start a week before with colourful street parades and cultural activities. On the eve of the Gawai, a grand
state dinner is held at the Civic Centre with singing, dancing and a beauty pageant which culminates in the crowning of several Gawai Queens, one each for Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities.
Obviously, Gawai Dayak is the best and the most interesting time
to visit Sarawak as you can see and sample the lifestyle and its festivities. All visitors are warmly received and accepted as new friends even if they happen to be strangers.
It is a happy time for all concerned.