The annual rice harvest festival of the Iban and various Dayak communities. Gawai is celebrated from the end of May onwards (stress is on the word 'onwards').
Gawai is celebrated to mark the end of harvesting. the Dayak started out as an agricultural based society and spent much of the year planting rice and cultivating other edible plant life. Harvest time is when they collectively breath a sigh of relief and 'let go'.
This is a time of much food, feasting and merry making. This is also a time of much tuak (local & potent rice wine) and other not so local brews such as Carlsberg, Tiger, Heineken, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, etc... for the sake of Merry Making, of course! At some longhouses, Gawai celebrations have been known to go on continuously for over a fortnight!
In the early days, Anglican and Catholic priests who were sent to Sarawak were (supposedly) advised by their Bishops to drink large amounts of olive oil to stem the effects of tuak during those period of festivities where one could not refuse drinking a swig or two of the local concoction; for fear of offending the whole village.
Tours during Gawai are organised to introduce tourists to this most excellent of experiences! Whether this has been a wise decision or not is still up for debate. Many happy tourists have stumbled off tour buses and into their hotel beds after a weekend Gawai sojourn at a local longhouse.