KUCHING: Parents have been told to make sure their school-going children do not drink till they are drunk this Gawai.

The advice came from Youth and Sports Assistant Minister Datuk Snowdan Lawan when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune today.

“There is a need for parents to dissuade their school-going children from indulging in liquor. By all means enjoy, but don’t overdo it, both for health and moral value,” the Balai Ringin assemblyman said.

On Gawai, Snowdan said padi cultivation stretches for about eight to nine months from July until March, covering farm clearing to harvesting.

Snowdan Lawan

“By mid-April, the grains would have been stored for food reserve in the following months. So, end of May to June is the “vacuum” period when this celebration fits in.

“However, June 1, since 1965 had been gazetted by the state government as a common date for the Dayaks to celebrate this festival,” he said.

According to Snowdan, the celebration is best described as “merry-making” where families and children, from far and near return to the villages to reunite, be merry, to forgive and to celebrate the bountiful harvest.

He further shared his own experience on the beauty of Gawai Dayak celebration.

“Family reunion comes first. Some rituals are done by the elders as per customs and traditions.

“Dayak maidens wear their traditional dresses. They dance the night away while the ‘tuak’ (traditional rice wine) is served.

“At the stroke of midnight, the ‘ai pengayu’ tuak is shared around for longevity,” he said, adding the traditional delicacies are then served.

“As they say, ‘Eat, drink and dance till dawn,” he said, adding on June 1, it’s time to visit from door to door.

He added that the following day of the celebration is usually a visit from door to door amongst the longhouse dwellers and visitors alike.

Over time, Gawai has taken quite a shape, he said.

“Traditions are kept but with lots of innovations especially in dressings, communications and music,” he said.