The Hari Raya Aidilfiltri is a time for celebration after the fasting month of Ramadhan. Prayers are held in the early morning of the first day at every mosque in the country. This day is usually an occasion for a family get-together. The second day is usually an open house day, an invitation for all to visit.
Special festive dishes are made, including ketupat (rice cakes), satay (beef & chicken kebabs), rendang (spicy marinated beef) and many others.
His Majesty, the Sultan also opens his doors to the people at the Istana Nurul Iman. This gives the people and visitors a chance to meet His Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, to wish them Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This is defintely an offer which should not be missed. When visiting, you should dress conservatively.
Brunei National Day
The Brunei National Day is celebrated on the 23rd of February, and the nation begins to gear up for this momentous occasion about two months beforehand. School children, civil servants and private sector representatives rehearse for their part in colorful crowd formations and flash card displays. Invariably a sell-out, the event takes place in the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium before 35,000 spectators.
Thousands of people watch the live nationwide telecast. His Majesty the Sultan and other members of the Royal Family will be present.
In recent years the Ramadhan fasting period has coincided with the National Day celebrations resulting in a more low key affair.
Brunei Sultan’s Birthday
His Majesty the Brunei Sultan’s Birthday is a joyous occasion and is one of the most important events in the national calendar, with festivities taking place throughout the country. The day’s highlight is the public gathering at the Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Safuddien, in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Here His Majesty meet with his people and inspects the troops. Afterwards, an investiture ceremony is conducted at the Istana Nurul Iman and, beneath firework cascades that light up the evening skies, revellers flock to buy refreshments from the pasar alam (night markets).
Since the dawn of time, the Kadazandusun and Murut people have been celebrating Pesta Keamatan or Harvest Festival in their won unique way, paying homage to the rice spirits called Bambarayon to mark their gratitude for their bountiful harvest.
Merry making takes place in various villages and districts which host their own celebrations throughout the month of May. The climax of the celebrations is the two-day state festival held at annually chosen places such as Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang on the 30th and 31st of May.
Higlights 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 in Kadazan 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 symbolising 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 another good harvest.
After paying homage to rice spirit, a merry making feast is celebrated. Those present are traditionally served with chicken porridge, eggs and meat only for it is believed that green vegetables connotes 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.
Unduk Ngadau literally means the ‘Noon Sun’. Legend has it that Kinoingan or the Creator sarificed his only daughter Huminodun so that all his people would have seeds to grow the food they needed.
Her head gave rise to the coconut, her flesh – padi, her blood – red rice, her fingers – ginger, her teeth – maize, her knees – yam, and so on. When it was time to ascend to the heavens or Hibabou, Kinoingan and his wife Suminundu, held a big feast as desired by their daughter so that the people would not forget the sacrifice. During the feast, Kinoingan was overcome with grief for his daughter.
He then played a special tune on his bamboo flute and called out her name. Miraculously, she appeared from a big jar which was used to hold the remains of the threshed padi. Her return to life added much joy to the festivities.
To honour the sacrifice made by Huminodun for the people, the search for the Unduk Ngadau or the ideal Kadazandusun maiden resembling her in terms of the total beauty of the heart, mind and body is the highlight of the Keaamatan Festivals!
The Gawai Dayak is Sarawak’s very own festival on 31 May and 1 June marks the end of the rice harvest. During Gawai many urban dwellers return to their ancestral longhouse or village and take part in rituals that go back before recorded time.
For days before, the women prepare banquets of traditional food and there is much brewing of tuak, the potent rice wine. This is a time for feasting, dancing and having a good time. It is also a traditional time for weddings and betrothals. Visitors are made welcome and this is the best time to see traditional longhouse life and ceremonies with the women dressed up in their exotic costumes.
The Kaul is celebrated by the Melanau community between mid-March and early April, Kaul is meant to appease the spirits of the sea at the start of the fishing season. These days, most Melanau are Muslim or Christian but the ancient Kaul festival has an enthusiastic following among both. Among the rituals is the launching of miniature wooden boats containing offerings for the sea spirits. The river mouths are closed and boats are not allowed to put out to sea for several days. The festival’s highlight is tibou, a high-spirited but dangerous game where young men compete to see how many can swing from the end of a single 10-metre rope.
The coastal town of Mukah is the center of the Kaul celebrations.