Harvest Festival in Malaysia

The Harvest Festival, known as Kaamatan in Malaysia, is a vibrant and joyous occasion celebrated by the indigenous people of Sabah, a state located in East Malaysia. This annual event takes place over two days, on the 30th and 31st of May.


The origins of Kaamatan can be traced back to the pre-Christian era when the indigenous people of Sabah, known as the Kadazan-Dusun, practiced animism. They worshipped a pantheon of gods and spirits, and the festival was originally held to honor the rice goddess, Bambaazon. The celebration marks the end of the rice harvesting season and serves as a time for thanksgiving and appreciation for the bountiful harvest. Over time, the festival has evolved to include cultural showcases, traditional games, and various other activities, while still maintaining its core essence of thanksgiving.


National customs for Harvest Festival in Malaysia

During Kaamatan, the Kadazan-Dusun people gather to give thanks to the rice spirits, and the festivities are filled with various traditional customs and performances. One of the most significant customs is the performance of the Magavau ceremony, a ritual dance performed to appease the rice spirits and ensure a bountiful harvest for the following year. The dance is accompanied by the rhythmic beating of gongs and the soulful singing of traditional songs.

Another important aspect of the celebration is the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant, which is held to pay tribute to the legendary Huminodun, a maiden who sacrificed herself to save her people from famine. The winner of the pageant is seen as the embodiment of Huminodun's spirit and represents the beauty, grace, and wisdom of the Kadazan-Dusun women.

Local customs for Harvest Festival in Malaysia

In addition to the national customs, the Harvest Festival in Malaysia is also celebrated with various local customs and activities. Each village or community may have its unique way of celebrating Kaamatan, with different traditional games, food, and performances. Some of the popular local customs include buffalo racing, arm wrestling, and bamboo stilt walking, which showcase the strength and agility of the participants.

During the festival, the locals also indulge in an array of traditional delicacies, such as hinava, a dish made from raw fish and lime juice, and tapai, a fermented rice wine. These dishes are often served during the traditional feast or 'makan besar,' which is held at the end of the festival to bring the community together in a spirit of unity and celebration.


The Harvest Festival in Malaysia, or Kaamatan, is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people of Sabah. With its deep-rooted history, vibrant customs, and lively celebrations, this festival continues to be an integral part of Malaysian culture and serves as a reminder of the importance of gratitude, community, and the natural world.