Nov 26, 2008

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Scribbled by Perky |

The Malaysian version of Thanksgiving, or at least the Borneo version, is very much different than the American Thanksgiving. In Sarawak, we Dayaks celebrate Thanksgiving in end May-early June and it is known as Gawai (in Sabah, Thanksgiving is known as Pesta Kaamatan).

The Gawai is a festival to thank the spirits/Gods for a good harvest. Unlike how the American Thanksgiving revolves around turkey and worrying about the stuffing that goes in it, Gawai revolves around rice wine (known as "tuak") and worrying about how wasted/drunk you're going to be.

Okay, I was kidding about the getting wasted part. But after years of celebrating Gawai, it's hard to not get wasted during this joyful occassion.

Like Thanksgiving, as Gawai approaches, the amount of stress and preparation increases. The house needs cleaning, food and cakes needs preparing, and the tuak needs to be stocked up (and lots and lots of it, mind you). Most of the food and drinks will end up being consumed by people you barely even know or hardly even like.

Some of us will go to church on the eve of Gawai while the more traditional ones will visit their ancestor's graveyard to clean the site and offer offerings to the dead. All sorts of rituals will take place. As I'm not involved in any of the rituals, I can't really tell you what goes on.

An offering to the spirits

I'm more involved in the drinking and dancing part which could last for days. There are so many friends to visit and each home that you visit, they will serve you tuak. So as you can see, it's kinda hard to stay sober when the host keeps shoving drinks into your hand (and it's rude to turn away the drinks offered to you).

Although the two Thanksgivings are different from each other, the meaning of it, however, is surprisingly similar.

It's about... being thankful that you didn't get as wasted as you did the previous year.

It's about... being thankful that you didn't wake up in strange places.

It's about... being thankful that your health permits you take part in this year's Thanksgiving.

It's about... being thankful that you have enough patience to not take a knife and stab the relative you so hate but just had to visit.

It's about... being thankful for having so many friends to share Thanksgiving with (not to mention the amount of free food and booze you'll be getting).

It's about... being thankful for what a blessed life you have. At least you still have a life.

This post was written as a submission to Kat's Blog Competition. To enter the contest, blog about "What does Thanksgiving mean to you?" and post your entry by Nov 30th. Please visit Kat's Blog Competition for more details.

If you've enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my blog.

17 Your say:

Kat from Tough Girl 101 said...

Hey thanks so much for entering! This is really a great entry!

sheng said...

Hmmm, Thanksgiving is counting your blessings and sharing them!

Twilight Zone said...

Hey I learnt a good lesson from this post. Never drink with Sarawakians again, the guys probably sipped beer since infancy! I would love such festivals you have, so fun & happy with free tuak. Burp! Burp!...
Happy Thanksgiving!

savante said...

Great take on the festival :)

Fable Frog said...

wah~ didn't know they have so much in similarity!

Nick Phillips said...

What? They have Thanksgiving in this country? How come no one told me? Man, the fun I've been missing all these years ... LOL!

Perky said...

Thanks! Luckily you didn't specifically mentioned the Christmas Thanksgiving. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to write anything about it.

Hahaha. If I had written that, I'd be stating the obvious now, wouldn't I? N where's the fun in that? ;p

Twilight Zone:
Lol! I think we were just born drinkers. I had my 1st taste of alcohol when I was 7 ;)

It'll be fun if we had Christmas Thanksgiving though. But it isn't in our culture. Sad.

Fable Frog:
Hehehe. Ya kan? Except the turkey part lah. It'll be weird to find a turkey on the table during Gawai.

Nick Phillips:
Haiyer.. you should go to East M'sia lah. That's where all the fun is :D

Fable Frog said...

but no turkey, can replace with a super fat chicken not?

samantha a.h @ wen said...

Happy Thanksgiving! Celebrated my first thanksgiving this year :D ...can't wait for Christmas! hehehe

Perky said...

Fable Frog:
Hehehe... can! But back in kampung, it's usually wild boar served on the table.

I can't wait for Christmas too! My first Christmas in Perth :)

Twilight Zone said...

Wild boar?? That's nice without fat. Invite me pleaseee!

Ron Jerem Lee said...

say i have brain tumor and only think things that are nonsenses - what's the whole idea of "kill" something to "celebrate" something.... hm... in the name of "thanksgiving" tim? :-) is like saying "castrate me so that i can have orgasm"..... :-p

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