Harvest Festivals Around Southeast Asia
close
Culture

8 Harvest Festivals Around Southeast Asia

What would we do without farmers? We’d get really hangry if there was no rice, meat, vegetables and fruits on our table. After a year of hard work and toiling in the fields, the harvest season is a time when farmers can finally reap what they have sown. Join us as we revel in the many harvest festivals around the Southeast Asian region and celebrate the farmers in our lives, because they’re simply the best!

1. Tabodwe, Myanmar

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Winner Inn (@winnerinnmyanmar) on

Htamane (sticky rice snack) making is a fun community-based event. Competitions are held to make the snack, where teams representing their neighbourhoods compete to make the best htamane accompanied by traditional music troupes.
Image: winnerinnmyanmar

In Myanmar, the harvest festival is celebrated all month long in Tabodwe, the eleventh month of the traditional Burmese calendar which  corresponds approximately with the month of February. In the full moon of Tabodwe, htamane-making competitions are held by pagodas and monasteries. Htamane is a snack made of sticky rice and peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut slices and cooking oil. Whether celebrated communally or only within families, everyone needs to pitch in as there’s a lot of work involved in preparing the savoury treat.

Next Tabodwe: January – February 2020

2. Sdar Lien, Cambodia

Sdar or dar means a Buddhist merit-making ritual intended for the spirits of ancestors or to patrons, while lien or lean is the name for the rice threshing yard. The festival falls around the Khmer lunar months of Boh and Meak Thom, which usually coincides with January and February, but the exact timing is right after the rice harvest. Celebrations start in the evening with offering to the temples and receiving blessings from the monks, and finishes in the afternoon of the next day after a feast of food, music and plenty of dancing.

Next Sdar Lien: January – February 2020

3. Pahiyas (Philippines)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Arnel Manalang 🇵🇭 (@arnelmanalang_ph) on

The highlight of Pahiyas in Lucban is the annual house-decorating competition, where each household tries to outdo each other by adorning their houses with rice wafers, fruits and vegetables.
Image: arnelmanalang_ph

The name of this festival comes from the Filipino words hiyas, which means ornament or jewel, while pahiyas refers to ornament or offering. It is celebrated by the people of Lucban, Quezon every 15 May during the resting interval between harvest and planting for the following year, as a thanksgiving and also in honour of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. People will try to outdo each other in decorating their houses with the bounties of harvest like fruits, vegetables, rice grains, flowers as well as kiping (colorful rice wafers) in a bid to win the best decorated house.

Next Pahiyas: 15 May 2019

4. Tet Trung Thu (Vietnam)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Black Cat Insulation Technical (@vietnam_insulation_blackcatjsc) on

Beautiful displays of lanterns of different sizes are some of the most defining traditions of Tet Trung Thu, along with all the singing and mooncake-eating.
Image: Vietnam_insulation_blackcatjsc

Vietnam is strongly influenced by East Asia and just like other countries in the region, Vietnam celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese) which is held on the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, corresponding with  late September to early October. Tet Trung Thu differs from other East Asian Mid-Autumn celebrations in that it revolves around children, as it is said that the festival is a time for parents to make up for lost time with their children after the harvest season. Parents dote on their children by making them mooncakes and colourful lanterns to be carried as the children parade on the streets.

Next Tet Trung Thu: 13 September 2019

5. Boun Khoun Khao (Laos)

Boun Khoun Khao is also known as Rice Festival and it is celebrated, you guessed it, after rice harvest in late January or early February. It is a time to express gratitude towards the spirits for the abundance as well as to ensure the next harvest will be plentiful with a baci or su kwan (calling of the soul) ceremony. A senior will tie white cotton strings around the wrists of the people sitting around a pha khouan (a marigold pyramid) while praying for them. After the ritual comes the usual dancing and singing, which visitors are welcome to join in.

Next Boun Khoun Khao: Late January to early February

6. Gawai (Malaysia & Indonesia)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Johnragaiphotos (@johnragaiphotos) on

Aside from celebrating the harvest, Gawai is also a good chance for the indigenous ethnic groups of Sarawak to showcase their traditional culture to visitors.
Image: johnragaiphotos

Once in a year, the Iban communities in Sarawak, Malaysia and West Kalimantan, Indonesia celebrates a harvest festival called Gawai, the Iban word for ritual or festival. It is a social occasion that brings people of different ethnic groups together in the spirit of unity and hope for a bountiful harvest, where villagers work together to prepare for the festivities, cleaning the longhouse, making tuak (rice wine) and preparing glutinous rice steamed in bamboo and other food. Festivities are in full swing from 31 May to 1 June, when important rituals are held, followed by lots of dancing, eating and general merry-making.

Next Gawai: 1 – 3 June 2019 (Sarawak, Malaysia), 18 – 26 May 2019 (West Kalimantan, Indonesia)

7. Kaamatan, Malaysia

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Pra Gawai X Kaamatan UNIMAS (@media_pragawai) on

Don’t miss out on the chance to sample local delicacies, drink rice wine and watch traditional dances when visiting Sabah during the Kaamatan season.
Image: media_pragawai

If you happen to be visiting the state of Sabah, Malaysia, in May, be sure to check out the month-long festival of Kaamatan celebrated mainly by the Kadazan-Dusun people and other related ethnic groups. The merry-making lasts for the whole month, climaxing with a public holiday on 30 and 31 May, where visitors get to watch sugandoi (singing competition) and unduk ngandau (ethnic beauty pageant).

Next Kaamatan: 30 – 31 May 2019 (Sabah, Malaysia)

8. Appadekko / Mappadendang (South Sulawesi, Indonesia)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Asriadi Rijal (@asriadilalego) on

The communal mappadendang consists of symbolic pounding of a long mortar, swinging, kite-flying, martial art performances, dancing and other games.
Image: asriadilalego

On a full moon night after the rice harvest, which usually falls in the month of March, the Bugis ethnic group in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, celebrates the yield of the crops by a ritual of music-making with the large communal mortar and pestle, called appadekko or mappadendang, depending on the region. Aside from the ritual, there’s also singing, mammencaq (martial art performance), matojang (swinging), as well as massureq or the reading of Meong Palo Karellae (literal meaning: reddish tabby cat), an excerpt from the La Galigo epic creation myth which follows the story of Sangiangserri, the rice goddess.

Next Mappadendang: March 2020 (South Sulawesi, Indonesia)

So what are you waiting for? Book your seats now at airasia.com and experience these harvest festivals around Southeast Asia and many more!

Albeit claiming to be a vegetarian, this self-professed culture vulture says that he’s willing to make an exception every time he is in an exotic place, as trying the local food is essential to widening a traveller’s horizon. But then each and every single place in the world outside of his hometown in Indonesia’s South Borneo counts as an ‘exotic place’...

Send this to a friend