What is the Harvest Festival in Malaysia All About?
Harvest Festival is an annual month-long celebration being held in Malaysia every May. Also known as Pesta Kaamatan, the festival has deep cultural roots with pagan origins and is considered one of the country’s grandest celebrations.
Harvest Festival is now known to be a must-go event given that tourists will really be exposed to the rich culture in Malaysia. Looking back to its origin, it can be best told by a Kadazan-Dusun lore about a famine that once caused great struggles in the tribes centuries ago. At the time, the villagers were on the edge of grave starvation because rice would not grow in their area.
What happened next is what the people are now celebrating every year during the Harvest Festival. God Kinoingan showed mercy to the people, saving the Kadazan-Dusun by sacrificing his own daughter. God planted his daughter’s body and spirit into the soil. By doing so, the land was revitalized, helping rice and other plants to grow.
The natives believe that the spirit of God’s daughter, called Bambaazon, penetrated each grain of rice. Series of rituals and ceremonies are held after every harvest to thank the spirits.
Things to Do During Harvest Festival in Malaysia
Harvest Festival is a good event to get to know the Malaysian culture even more, even beyond learning about the reason behind the bountiful harvest season. Here some of the things you can do during this grand celebration:
Learning About Ancient Animist in Sabah
Sabah’s tribesmen held animistic beliefs a few generations ago, believing that spirits are present in every natural object. Up until the British and their missionaries came in the 19th century, ancient rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifice were a common thing. After some time, the former pagans in Sabah were convinced to be converted to Christianity or Islam. Kaamatan is among the few surviving legacies that showcase the old way of living in Sabah.
Go Shopping for Souvenirs
You might want to take a piece of Sabah by buying souvenirs. The country offers traditional keepsakes such as beads, pearls, woven baskets, hats, and even ethnic costume lines. Other souvenirs that you can purchase are bamboo mouth organ called sompoton, gongs, and home-made rice wine.
Consuming Dusun Delicacies
One of the exciting parts of visiting Malaysia is eating its delicious native delicacies. During Harvest Festival in Sabah, there are dishes offered whose recipes date back to earlier generations.
How Harvest Festival in Malaysia is Celebrated
Harvest Festival in Malaysia is essentially a thanksgiving dedicated to the rice gods who helped the people grow the food staple again. During this celebration, there are agricultural shows, exhibitions, cultural programs, buffalo races, and other traditional games that are held. Rice wine is also flowing freely as people enjoy the festivities.
Sabah natives also wear their traditional wardrobes, enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere in the festival.
Rice harvest in Sarawak, meanwhile, has a different approach to celebration. Villagers gather at midnight after collecting the last grain of rice during the harvest. They stay in a slant-roofed longhouse located in a jungle.
They then offer thanksgiving for the harvest and ask for a blessing during the next harvest season. People then hold a grand banquet.
The celebrations are being concluded with a two-day state festival.
Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Harvest Festival in Malaysia
As mentioned, Sabah is the place to be when celebrating the Harvest Festival. But because there are also public holidays during this celebration, you might want to take the time to relax for a while. A vacation might do you good as well. Here are some of the places you can go to:
Sapi Island, Kota Kinabalu
It is the perfect escape for people who love going to the beach. Located in the Peninsular region of Malaysia, the island offers a picturesque vista, calm water, and a cold breeze. You can do a bunch of activities here such as scuba diving, snorkelling, and swimming.
If you want more adventure, you can go trekking Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in the country and one of the highest terrains in Southeast Asia. It is popular for its botanical and biological species biodiversity, with its plants having origins from Himalayas, Australasia, and Indo-Malaya. Surely, going up this mountain will give you a different.