Hafay – millet, in Pangcah’s language- is an ecotype of Setaria italica used to be one of the staple food for indigenous people in Taiwan, and its significance can be observed in varied traditional festivals of indigenous tribes, such as the Fishing Festival (Komolis) and Harvest Festival (Ilisin) of the Amis tribe, Ear-Shooting Ceremony (Malahodaigian) of the Bunun tribe and Dwarf Ceremony (Pastaay) of the Saisiat tribe. During the festival, we can see Hafay is mostly tied in sheaves or being processed to liquor (similar to sake) or desserts.
Hafay sowing starts from the day of the full moon in the first month of the lunar calendar. The growth cycle is 6 months, harvesting time usually from July to August, then we can see sheaves of Hafay drying by the side of the roads or the open field in the front or back of the houses. Normally people cut a handful of its spike and tie with bamboo leaves, and strap many sheaves into a large bunch for easy shipping and storage.
According to the consistency, it can be divided into glutinous and japonica varieties. It is consumed like rice and it is often made into congee and alcohol. With its high nutritious value and rich cellulose, provides versatile uses in varied flavorful products.
During ceremonies, banquets, and festivals, the beverage and dessert are popular for paying tribute to gods or showing their admiration and wishes to people. Except for the Tao tribe, every indigenous community has the custom to brew liquor, and it could only be consumed on particular occasions.
Hafay has deeply bonded to the daily life of indigenous people; the golden drooping ears of Hafay have become the most festive ornament. It is common to see Hafay’s spikes hanging on the door in the tribes, symbolizing the great wishes and good harvest.