Gawai Dayak, a festive celebrated in Sarawak on 1st June every year is both a religious and social occasion. Dayak would visit their friends and relatives on this day. Such visit is more known as “ngabang” in Iban language. The far would receive greeting cards.
How it all started can be traced back to a 1957 radio forum organized by Mr Ian Kingsley, a radio programme organiser. This generated a lot of interest among the Dayak community. Up till 1962, British colonial government still refused to give recognition to the Dayak Day.
To the Dayak, Gawai Dayak would be a recognition of the Dayak race, their source of national pride and a way to reciprocate social hospitality extended by the other races during their festivals.
After numerous requests, it fell on the sympathetic ears of the First Sarawak Chief Minister, Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan and his cabinet comprising among others, the present State Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud. The then Governor, Tun Abang Haji Openg, who when he was a member of the council Negeri, had always supported the move in the Council, gave his assent.
Gawai Dayak was formally gazetted on 25th September 1964 as a public holiday in place of Sarawak Day. It was first celebrated on 1st June 1965 and became a symbol of unity, aspiration and hope for the Dayak community.Today, it is an integral part of Dayak social life. It is a thanksgiving day marking good harvest and a time to plan for the new farming season or activities ahead.