You’ll never Gawai alone

Gawai celebration 2014

I have spent the last 19 years celebrating Gawai in Bau, a small town about 30km from Kuching, the capital of Malaysia’s largest state, Sarawak.

For the uninitiated, Gawai Dayak is a harvest celebration, observed by the Dayak people, who are the aborigines of Sarawak.

It is similar to Ka’amatan which the Sabah natives honour.

Gawai means festival or ritual, hence Gawai Dayak literally means Dayak Festival.

It is to honour the spirits of the paddy crop and fields – back when most Dayak were pagans – so they would reap better harvest the next year.

Nowadays, most of them are Christians and many visit churches to offer prayers.

Gawai is a month-long celebration and several kampung (villages) celebrate it on different days.

Maybe it’s age catching up with me but this year, Gawai feels a little subdued.

Or perhaps it has to do with the fact the square in town, which is usually heavily decorated, is bare.

The ‘bare square’ could be due to the ‘Festival Gawai’ at Bau’s Civic Centre on June 22 which will see participants from 104 Bidayuh villages showcasing their heritage.

As such, all efforts are geared up for that event, leaving me underwhelmed.

The horrible weather – it has been raining heavily every day since I arrived back at my wife’s hometown last Tuesday – could also have something to do with the ‘meh’ feeling.

Yesterday was the only day when it hadn’t rained for half a day and we managed to visit some relatives – the only time we did so apart from an engagement party on Sunday.

But, despite all these “setbacks”, I still consider this the best Gawai ever – simply because of Liverpool’s Champions League triumph over Tottenham Hotspur on June 1.

June 1 is the start of Gawai ‘season’. What a way to kick it off by watching Liverpool win its sixth European Cup.

Most of my in-laws are Reds fans so we enjoyed the victory together.

To readers of Twentytwo13, I wish you Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai (long life, health and prosperity).

You’ll Never Gawai Alone.