SARAWAKIANS have been enjoying a long festive break this past week, with Gawai last weekend followed by Hari Raya a couple of days later.
It must have been quite an odd experience for those who didn't take the whole week off as only Tuesday and Friday were not public holidays.
This is the first time since 1987 that Gawai - the harvest festival celebrated by Sarawak's Dayak community each June 1-2 - coincided with Raya, which fell on June 5-6 this year.
Such a major double celebration was never going to go unremarked. The Sarawak Tourism Board came up with Gawai-Raya money packets to commemorate the occasion and local production team SukaSuka released a short film titled A Journey Home which celebrates the double festivities.
Festive celebrations in Malaysia have generally been a time to promote unity and Gawai-Raya provided a double helping of that.
State leaders called upon Sarawakians to preserve unity and harmony in their Gawai and Raya messages, as well as to keep up the practice of visiting one another's open houses.
For many Sarawakians, the Gawai-Raya celebration has reinforced their sense of unity in diversity, of celebrating together regardless of race, religion or even political affiliation, which has emerged as a strong divisive factor post-GE14.
At the Chief Minister's Raya open house, for instance, a multicultural crowd of guests came over two days to enjoy festive fare and mingle with one another.
As one visitor observed, "It's wonderful that the Chief Minister is so welcoming and hospitable to different races. This will help to promote harmony and racial unity."
The Chief Minister himself noted that he received about 20,000 visitors from all races on the first day, who came not only to celebrate Raya but also Gawai.
"We can see the unity among Sarawak's different races in celebrating Aidilfitri. In fact, it's a double celebration this year with Gawai as well.
"This is something that Sarawakians can be proud of. We are united regardless of race, religion or political affiliation," he said.
Of course, it's easy to make pronouncements of unity on these occasions. The challenge is sustaining at other times, when we're faced with intolerant attitudes, say, or clashes arising from political differences.
Let's not just pay lip service to unity and harmony during festive occasions. As we celebrate together, let's build strong bonds of friendship, mutual understanding and respect that will help us to continue living in harmony and, where differences prevail, not least in politics, to agree to disagree without becoming divided.
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