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Harvest Festivals






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Thanksgiving Day


Harvest Festivals

Harvest Festivals from Around the World

    Malaysian Harvest Festival

    The Harvest festival celebrated in Malaysia by the Kadazan of Sabah each May with thanksgiving dedicated to the rice gods. Agricultural shows, exhibitions, cultural programs, buffalo races, and other traditional games are held. There is much merrymaking and feasting with rice wine flowing freely throughout the festivities.

    The Rice Harvest Festival in Malaysia or Gawai Dayak is usually held on the second day of June.

    At harvest time the whole of the Malaysian community work together in the rice fields, gathering the stalks by hand. Traditional Malaysians harvest rice with a special knife whose carved handle is said to appease the Semangat or rice spirit.

    In the month of May, Saba Hans celebrate The Kadazan Harvest Festival. The Kadazan Harvest Festival is known locally as ‘Tadau Ka’amatan’.

    According to their beliefs, the spirit of the paddy plant is said to be part of the Kinoingan - also known as the Bambaazon, who is revered as the creator, a source of life and existence. The rice spirit Bambaazon is therefore revered in the rice plant, the rice grain and the cooked rice. Many believe that “Without rice, there is no life”.

    During the festival, Sabah natives wear their traditional costumes and enjoy a carnival atmosphere which stretches from daybreak till dawn. ‘Tapai’ or home-made rice wine is served as the specialty for the day.

    Sabahans are greeted with a special greeting for the harvest festival known as ‘Kopivosian Tadau Ka’amatan’ or ‘Happy Harvest Festival’.

    In Sarawak the rice harvest is celebrated every year on the June 2nd, sometimes the 1st. When the last of the grain has been collected, villagers gather at midnight, in slant-roofed longhouses perched on tall stilts, deep in the jungle. They first offer a thanksgiving for the harvest and invoke blessings for the next harvest; the people then eat a protracted banquet. A most essential part of the meal is the rice wine, also offered to the gods in the miring ceremony.

    The Kadazandusun and Murut people have been celebrating Pesta Keamatan or Harvest Festival in their own unique way, paying homage to the rice spirits called Bambarayon to show their gratitude for their bountiful harvest.

    Merrymaking takes place in various villages and districts which host their own celebrations throughout the month of May. The finale of the celebrations is the two-day state festival held at chosen places such as Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang on the 30th and 31st of May.

    Highlights of the festival include the Magavau, a traditional thanksgiving ceremony by the Bobohizan or High Priestess, the Unduk Ngadau or traditional Harvest Festival Queen, cultural dances and much merrymaking.

    Traditional beliefs have it that Bambarayon can be threatened by pests, natural disasters, or even by the carelessness of the farmers themselves. To applause Bambarayon, Magavau which means "to recover what has been lost, by whatever means," must be performed.

    Lead by the high priestesses, the Bobohizan and their assistants perform a ritual symbolizing the search for the stray Bambarayon to be safely brought 'home'.

    Moving in a single file, close to one another, the Bobohizan and their assistants enter the 'spirit' world in search of Bamabarayon. Every time a stray Bambarayon is located, piercing screams or pangkis is heard, expressing joy at the find, thus ensuring that they have another good harvest.

    After paying homage to the rice spirit, a merrymaking feast is celebrated. Those present are traditionally served with chicken porridge, eggs and meat only that it is a belief that green vegetables are a sign of disrespect to the guests of Bambarayon and only the best tapai or rice wine is served. Keaamatan celebrations are filled with rituals, music, songs and dances which are pure expression of Sabah cultural joy and merriment.

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