The mode of celebration varies from place to place. Preparation starts early. Tuak (rice wine) is brewed (at least one month before the celebration) and traditional delicacies like penganan (cakes from rice flour, sugar and coconut milk) prepared. As the big day approaches, everyone will be busy with the general cleaning and preparing food and cakes. On Gawai Eve, glutinous rice is steamed in bamboo (ngelulun pulut). In the longhouse, new mats will be laid out on the ruai (an open gallery which runs through the entire length of the longhouse). The walls of most bilik (rooms) and the ruai are decorated with Pua Kumbu (traditional blanket). A visit to clean the graveyard is also conducted and offerings offered to the dead. After the visit it is important to bathe before entering the longhouse to ward off bad luck.
This is how TUAK is made.
The celebration starts on the evening of 31st May. In most Iban's longhouse, it starts with a ceremony called Muai Antu Rua (to cast away the spirit of greediness), signifying the non interference of the spirit of bad luck in the celebration. Two children or men each dragging a chapan ( winnowing basket ) will pass each family room. Every family will throw some unwanted article into the basket. The unwanted articles will be tossed to the ground from the end of the longhouse for the spirit of bad luck.
Around 6 pm, miring (offering ceremony) will take place. Before the ceremony, gendang rayah (ritual music) is performed. The feast chief thanks the gods for the good harvest, ask for guidance, blessings and long life as he sacrifices a cockerel. Dinner will then be served at the ruai. While waiting for midnight, the folks gather and mingle at the ruai and berandau (talk/converse). Meanwhile, drinks, traditional cakes and delicacies are served.
At midnight, the gong is sounded. The tuai rumah ( leader of the longhouse ) will lead everyone to drink the Ai Pengayu ( normally tuak for long life ) and at the same time wishing each other "gayu-guru, gerai-nyamai" ( long life, health and prosperity ). A procession up and down the ruai called Ngalu Petara ( Welcoming the Spirits ) will follow. The celebration by now will get more merrier. Some will dance to the traditional music played. Others will sing the pantun ( poems ). In the town, the Dayak will gather at the community centres or restaurants for a enliven the evening.
Other activities that may follow the next day include cock-fighting, demonstration of blowpipe skills and ngajat ( dance ) competitions. On this day, 1st June, the homes of the Dayaks will be opened to visitors. In the longhouses, there is a practise called masu pengabang where guests will be served with tuak ( rice wine ) by the host before they can enter the longhouse. Dayaks will attend a church mass to thank God for the good harvest. Gawai Dayak celebration may last for several days. Visitors are most welcome to the homes of the Dayaks during the festival.
The costumes they wear during the NGAJAT DANCES.