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Traditions of Pesta Kaamatan

Pesta Kaamatan is a regional public holiday observed in the state of Sabah and territory of Labuan on May 30th and 31st each year. Kaamatan or Pesta Kaamatan is a harvest festival celebrated by the ethnic Kadazan-Dusuns, as well as by other related ethnic groups in the state. The Kadazan-Dusun are the largest indigenous group in Sabah.

Kaamatan dates back to a time when most of Sabah’s tribes held animistic beliefs and is one of the few surviving legacies of the old tribal way of life in Sabah. The festival lasts for the whole month of May, ending with two days of public holidays. Pesta Kaamatan is the time for thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest and also the time for a get-together, to feast and to renew communal relationships. Representatives from each district come out in numbers while donning traditional costumes, showcasing Sabah’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Though a centuries-old festival, its celebrations are quite modern, with a highlight being a beauty pageant known as Unduk Ngadau. There are also dance performances, singing contests and a bodybuilding competition as well as other arts and crafts performances. Competitions such as hitting the gong and folk sports have also become one of the main events in this festival.

Kaamatan is also a time to share traditional food, such as the 'hinompot' (rice cooked and wrapped in leaves), hinava (a dish made of fish, lime juice, bird’s eye chilli, sliced shallots and grated ginger) and nomsom bambangan (a type of mango pickle). A popular drink is a traditional rice wine called 'tapai'. Sabah is a state of Malaysia located on the northern portion of Borneo. The Federal Territory of Labuan is made up of Labuan Island and six smaller islands and is located off the west coast of Sabah.



Date of Input: 11/06/2022 | Updated: 14/10/2022 | aslamiah


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