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Vietnam is a country with long and rich cultures. Festivals are important facts of the year which vary from different ethnic groups. Among thousands of them, Lunar New Year (or Tet) stands the first in the list – it is a sacred festival of every Vietnamese. Extracts below are major events which we have gathered and edited notably. Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)
Tet falls on a time when the old year is over and the New Year comes by lunar calendar. This is also the time when the cycle of the universe finishes: winter ends and spring, the season of birth of all living things, comes. Tet is an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. It is a time when one pays respect to his/her ancestors and grandparents who have brought up him/her. It is an occasion when everyone sends each other best wishes for a new year, stops thinking about unhappy things and says good things about each other. On the 23rd day of the twelfth month by lunar calendar, there is a rite to see Tao Quan (Kitchen God) off. The rite to say goodbye to the old year is held on the 30th or 29th day (if that month has only 29 days) of the twelfth month by lunar calendar.
The rite to welcome the New Year is held at midnight that day. The rite to see off ancestral souls to return to the other world is often held on the 3rd day of the first month by lunar calendar when the Tet holidays finish and everybody goes back to work. There are various customs practiced during Tet such as ancestral worshipping, visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, wishing Tet wishes, giving lucky money to young children and old people, wishing longevity to the oldest people, opening rice paddies or opening a shop. Mid-Autumn Festival
Tet Trung Thu is formerly autumn festival, and then becomes tet trong trang (moon looking festival) of children. On this day, the moon is the brightest and roundest in the year, cool weather. The festival involves the custom of trong trang, procession of lights (parading with lanterns shaped as moon and stars), lion dance and eating pasties and fruits.
Chol Chnam Thmay Festival
Khmer people’s new year festival lasts three days and four days in leap years. Each of these days has its own name. Apart from worshipping the Buddha, Khmer people believe that every year the heaven sends a god called
Tevoda to the earth to look after human beings and their life. At the end of the year, the god returns to heaven and another one will replace him. Therefore, in the new year’s eve, every family prepares a party, burns incense and lights up lamps in a ceremony to see off the old Tedova and greet the new one. They also pray to this god for good luck. Khmer people always prepare for the new year ceremony very carefully. They clean and redecorate their house and buy necessary food for the holidays. They stop all farm work, relax and set free their cattle. The three official festival days are held in a joyful and exciting way.
Khau Vai love market festival
Each year, there is a market session on lunar March 27 (often falling on solar May), but it is not a farming produce trading market but a love market. The name and activities of the market have common things with love market in Sapa. But what’s different is that Khau Vai is a love market for various ethnic minority groups from four mountainous districts in Dong Van Plateau and ethnic minority groups in communes adjacent to Bao Lam and Bao Loc districts of Cao Bang province. Local senior people said that this love market dated back to 1919. Roads are now more accessible than the previous years, so more people come to the market. However, activities of the market are still rich in cultural identity. A local myth tells the story of a young couple from different tribes who fell in love with each other. The girls belonged to the Giay group and the boy belonged to the Nung group. The girl was so beautiful that her tribe did not want to let her get married with a man from another tribe.
Consequently, violent conflict arose between the two tribes. One day, the boy witnessed an aggressive fight between the tribes as a result of their love. To stop the blood shed, the lovers sorrowfully decided to say goodbye. However, they made plans to meet once a year on that day, lunar March 27. The place where they used to meet is Khau Vai, which thereafter became a meeting place for all of those in love. In the market area, there are two temples called Ong and Ba (Mr and Mrs). A story tells that, once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl born in two different places of the Dong Van Plateau. The boy’s surname is Linh and the girl’s surname is Loc. They love each other very much despite being hindered by deep streams and high rock mountains. Because their families prevented their marriage, they together came to Khau Vai, a prosperous land with rich plants which they could live on. Although they did not have a child but they lived happily until they died. In honour of their merits in cultivating the wild land into a rich land, the local people built the two temples to worship them. Therefore, on every lunar March 27, Khau Vai attracts couples of different ages, including those who seek their partners for the first time.
However, most of them are those who love each other very much but cannot wed together because of many different reasons. On the day when the market session takes place, it is likely that both the wife and her husband together go to the market but they look for their own partners to share emotions. If one of them has to stay at home, he or she is not jealous in love because the dating at the marketplace is really a faithful feeling exchange. It can be said that the beauty of love is a basic factor to keep the existence of Khau Vai love market for such a long time. With the assistance of Ha Giang Culture and Information Department, Meo Vac district and Khau Vai commune authorities hold the traditional love market of Khau Vai in order to promote cultural identity of ethnic minority groups in the locality. The love market festival is held on lunar March 26 and 27 with the participation of a large number of locals. The festival features food and drink culture, song performances and folk games. Ethnic costumes, jewellery, ethnic musical instruments and culture and art publications are on display at the market, reflecting activities of the local people.
Hung Temple Festival
The festival begins with a palanquin procession performed by three villages of Co Tich, Vi Cuong and Trieu Phu. The procession carries bamboo elephants and wooden horses symbolizing the submission of animals to the Kings Hung and the wedding of the Mountain Genie and Princess Ngoc Hoa. Banh chung (square sticky rice cake) and banh giay (round sticky rice cake) are indispensable offerings in the procession in order to honour the merit of the Kings Hung who taught people to plant rice and to remind people of Lang Lieu who invented these cakes. The worship service is held on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month and commences with a flower ceremony with the participation of state representatives. Held in Thuong Temple, where the Kings Hung used to worship deities with full rituals, the ceremony is conducted with the traditional rituals representing the whole nation. During that time, the nha to Do Ngai guild performs singing and dancing to welcome visitors. The children of the Kings Hung throughout the country converge on the temple to offer incense.
The procession includes the state representatives, one hundred young men and women in traditional costumes symbolizing “children of the Dragon and Fairy” and pilgrims. The procession marches are followed by a Xoan singing performance (a kind of folk song of Vinh – Phu region) in Thuong Temple, ca tru (a kind of classical opera) in Ha Temple, and other activities including bamboo swings, nem con (throwing a sacred ball through the ring), cham thau (beating bronze drum), dam duong (pounding rice). Hung Temple Festival not only attracts visitors from all over the country because of its special traditional cultural activities, but it is also a sacred trip back in time to the origins of the Vietnamese nation. People usually show their love and pride of their homeland and ancestral land. This religious belief deeply imbedded in the minds of every Vietnamese citizen, regardless of where they originate.
Quan Ho” is a special folk song of Kinh Bac Province, now called Bac Ninh Province. The festival takes place on Lim Hill where the Lim Pagoda is located. This pagoda is where Mr. Hieu Trung Hau, the man who invented Quan Ho, is worshipped. The Lim Festival takes place every year on 13th day of the first lunar month. Visitors come to enjoy the festival and see the performances of “lien anh” and “lien chi”. These are male and female farmers who sing different types of songs in the pagodas, on the hills, and in the boats. Besides this, visitors can come to the Lim Festival to enjoy the weaving competition of the Noi Due girls. They weave and sing Quan Ho songs at the same time. Like other religious festivals, the Lim Festival goes through all the ritual stages, from the procession to the worshipping ceremony, and includes other activities. The Lim Festival is a special cultural activity in the North. The festival celebrates the “Quan Ho” folk song which has become a part of the national culture and a typical folk song that is well loved in the Red River Delta region.
Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival
The Buffalo Fight in Do Son (Haiphong City) is officially held every year on the 9th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. There are, in fact, two rounds of elimination before the middle of the fifth month and 8th day of the sixth lunar month. The preparation for this festival is very elaborate. Fighting buffaloes must be carefully selected, well fed, and trained. These buffaloes must be between 4 and 5 years old, with a good appearance, a wide chest, a big groin, a long neck, an acute bottom, and bow shaped horns. The fighting buffaloes are fed in separate cages to keep them from contact with common buffaloes. The beginning of the worshipping ceremony lasts until lunch time. A typical procession begins with an octet and a big procession chair, carried by six strong young men. The six clean buffaloes that are part of the ceremony are covered with red cloths and bound with reddish bands on their horns.
There are 24 young men who dance and wave flags as two teams of troops start fighting. After this event, a pair of buffaloes are led to opposite sides of the festival grounds and are made to stand near two flags called Ngu Phung. When the right signal is released, the two buffaloes are moved to within 20m of each other. At the next signal, the two leaders release the ropes that are attached to the noses of the buffaloes. The two buffaloes then rush into each other with well practiced movements. The spectators then shout and urge the fighting along. At the completion of the fight, the spectacle of “receiving the buffaloes” is very interesting as the leaders must then catch the winning buffalo to grant it its reward. The Buffalo Fight in Do Son is a traditional festival that is attached to a Water God worshipping ceremony and the “Hien Sinh” custom. The most typical reason for the ceremony is to express the martial spirit of the local people in Do Son, Haiphong.
Chu Dong Tu Festival
Chu Dong Tu is one of four immortal gods in the Vietnamese pantheon. The festival annually takes place from the 10th to the 12th day of the second lunar month at two temples, Da Hoa and Da Trach, in Khoai Chau District, Hung Yen Province. Starting from Ha Noi, visitors can travel downstream on the Red River by boat or canoe, or go by motorbike along the dyke of the Red River for 20 km. During the festival, pilgrims in colourful dress converge on the two temples, Da Hoa and Da Trach.
At Da Hoa Temple
In the early morning of the 10th, the inhabitants of nine communes hold a long procession along the dyke of the Red River to Da Hoa Temple. Marching in the van of the procession is Hoang Trach Commune. Following are Dong Que, Bang Nha, Phu Thi, Phuc Trach, Thiet Tru, Nhan Thap, Da Hoa communes, and finally Me So Commune. When the procession reaches the temple, palanquins and offerings are placed at a stipulated place. Then, the members of the procession and pilgrims begin the opening ceremony at the courtyard. As the opening ceremony and incense presenting ceremony end, people participate in traditional games that take place during day and night.
At Da Trach Temple
In the morning of the 10th, residents of Da Trach, Ham Tu, Yen Phu, Dong Tao and Tu Dan communes, Khoai Chau District, Hung Yen Province hold a procession from Da Trach Temple to the Red River to get water. The water procession is preceded by a 20 meter-long dragon. Thirty strong young men carry the dragon and dance in the rhythm of drumbeats, which makes the procession jubilant. Following are two rows of women in colorful dresses holding flags, gongs and drums, and parasols. Young women perform a dance with conical hats and castanets with coins stringed. Young men carry palanquins holding a jar, and a profusely decorated stick and conic hat – the two magic articles bestowed on Chu Dong Tu by the Buddha. Then come three palanquins containing the tablets of Chu Dong Tu and his two wives. The end is God of Carp palanquin ” Be ngu than quan”. Notable men in traditional dresses go after the procession.
When the procession arrives at the riverbank, the boats of Khoai Chau District sail downstream the Red River to meet the procession of Mai Dong Commune (Hung Yen Province), Khai Thai and Tu Nhien Communes (Ha Tay Province). They join into a long procession and row to middle of the river to get water. The procession brings water to the temple at 11.30 a.m and the opening ceremony begins. After the water palanquin is placed in the temple, palanquins of gods are placed in the courtyard, then the dragon dancing group comes to the temple’s door worship god; senh tien dance and conical hats dance are performed on Tien Bridge. After the opening ceremony, various games and activities are organized such as wrestling, human chess, and traditional and religious dances.
Huong Pagoda Festival
Approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Ha Noi, Huong Son boasts quite a few pagodas built in the Posterior Le Dynasty. Until the beginning of the 20th century, there have over 100 pagodas. Visitors can go to Huong Son via the Ha Dong – Van Dinh route. Vietnamese or foreigners alike wish to come to Huong Son in springtime. Heading there tourists come to a magnificent land, a famous beauty spot in Vietnam. Going boating in Yen Stream, visitors get a stunning view of the landscape in springtime. Here lies Ngu Nhac Mountain, there stand Hoi Bridge, Dun and Voi Phuc (Prostrating Elephant) mountains. Then come Thuyen Rong (Dragon Boat) and Con Phuong (Phoenix) mountains, not to mention various other mountains named after their shape like Ong Su (Buddhist Monk), Ba Vai (Buddhist nun), Mam Xoi (Tray of Sticky Rice), Trong (Drum), or Chieng (Gong). At Trinh Temple visitors stop to burn incense and present to the Mountain Deity before going on their journey to Ba Cave. In front of the cave spreads a land with magnificent beauty. Leaving Ba Cave, tourists go to Tro Wharf, the starting point for the trekking up the mountain. Thien Tru Pagoda is the first destination.
Known as the Kitchen of Heaven, it boasts Thien Thuy – a tower-like natural rock, and Vien Cong Tower an exquisite terracotta architectural structure dated back to the 17th century. On the right of the pagoda stands Tien Son Grotto, housing five statues carved out of stone and many stalactites and stalagmites which can be used as musical instruments. To reach Huong Tich Grotto one go past a winding path paved with slabs of stone nature has smoothed. Alongside the path visitors has a chance to feast their eyes on stunning landscapes. In the 18th century, upon coming here Lord Trinh Sam had the words “The most beautiful grotto under the Southern sky” chiselled above the mouth of the grotto. Pushing into its belly, visitors get a spectacular view. Many stalactites and stalagmites are named after their shape: Rice Pile, Money Pile, Gold Tree, Silver Tree to name but a few. Inside there are statues of King’s Father, Queen, Avalokitesvara, and so on. Noteworthy is the Cuu Long structure with nine dragons flanking from above. There are many interesting pagodas, caves and grottoes in Huong Son. Among them include Long Van, Tuyet Son, Hinh Bong, and so forth.
The Ong Bay (Sung Sam) Cave, 2km from Long Van Pagoda, still retains traces of ancient people some tens of thousands of years ago. Unlike any other places, Huong Pagoda harmonizes the characters of a Buddhist architectural complex with the impressive natural beauty. Coming here, tourists have chances to live in a boisterous atmosphere of a spring festival amidst beautiful landscape. They seem to be free from all tiredness and sorrow and come to pay respect to the compassionate Buddha. Tay Phuong Pagoda Festival
On the main festival day, villagers get sacred water for moc duc ceremony (washing statues) and worshipping. The festival involves the incense offering, food offering, praying the Buddha for blessings. The pilgrimages come to the festival to enjoy the landscape, the architecture of the pagoda and the wooden statues of the 18 arhats as well as take part in traditional games such as puppet-play, tug-of-war, cock fighting, human chess, wrestling… at the foot of the hill. Thay Pagoda Festival
Tu Dao Hanh was a Buddhist monk in the Ly Dynasty. He had outstanding merits regarding the popularization of the religion, the treatment of diseases for people and the creation of many games original to Vietnam, including water puppetry. The Thay Pagoda Festival is held on the seventh day of the third lunar month in remembrance of his merits. Several days prior to the festival, Buddhist followers and pilgrims far and near flock to the pagoda, further adding to the boisterous atmosphere of the festival. The Pagoda is cleaned and incenses, candles lit, bringing about a charming scene. The statue bathing ritual takes place before the opening of the festival. Buddhist monks and the people participate in the ritual. Pieces of red cloth are used to clean the statues. Those standing around solemnly hold their hands in front of their chests, whispering Buddhist sutras. When the ritual ends, the used water, the holy water the Buddha bestows, will be scattered all over the pagoda in a wish for bumper crops and prosperous life. The cloths are also torn into smaller pieces to divide among the people as they are thought to have the power of warding off the evils. The rite of cleaning objects of worship comes after this statue bathing ritual.
The procession of Tu Dao Hanh’s worshipping tablet takes place on the 7th day of the third lunar month, with the participation of four villages Thuy Khue, Da Phuc, Sai Khe and Khanh Tan. Covering under a yellow cloth, the colour of the outfits worn by those having supernatural powers, the tablet is carried by four representatives from the four villages mentioned above. Each village carries its own tutelary god’s tablet. Noteworthy is that in the procession the tablet and white horse of Da Phuc must go ahead those of the Thuy Khue. Normally the procession comes to the pagoda at twilight. At the pagoda the ritual of presenting offerings to Buddha is held in a solemn manner to the accompaniment of musical instruments. The offerings in various kinds and different colours are out into the altar, looking impressive in the smoke of incenses and candles.
Wearing fine outfits, holding sticks to which are decorated with flowers, Buddhist monks chant Buddhist sutras while dancing to display the journey of mankind in striving for noble things. Among fascinating games in Thay Pagoda Festival, water puppetry stands out. It is performed at the Thuy Dinh House in Long Tri pond in front of the pagoda. Tu Dao Hanh is said to be the founder of this artistic performance. Going to Thay Pagoda Festival pilgrims have an opportunity to revere the relics imbued with the imprints of outstanding monks and men of the past. Vieng market Festival
Vieng Market Festival (Vu Ban District): display goods for sale and buy such as handicraft products, antiquities and false antiquities, utensils, tools for agriculture production, and many kinds of ornamental plants. Specialities are barbecued beef and giay cake. Vieng Festival in Chua Market (Nam Truc District): opens according to the custom of giving a feast to the troops after the victory of King Quang Trung in the spring of Ky Dau year (1789). There are sacrifies – offering ceremony and a procession of god.
Keo Pagoda Festival
Description of the festival
The annual Keo Pagoda Festival lasts three days during which lots of religious and traditional rituals and customs are held in celebration of the Buddhist monk who rendered great merits to the people and the country. The festival also hosts different traditional cultural activities, reflecting the life style, which is imbued with traits of the Red River Delta’s agricultural culture, of a riverside residential area.
Preparation for the festival
On the 3rd day of the 6th lunar month, after carrying out the ritual of offering bia cakes to Buddha, eight hamlets in Keo Village select their chief officiant. Each hamlet also chooses its own assistant to the chief officiant. From this day to the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, villagers decorate the pagoda. Ten days before going into the pagoda to do this work, those selected must eat vegetarian food and have a bath to clean their bodies. On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, the chief officiant and his eight assistants carry out the ritual of offering incense and changing the costumes of statues of gods. This ritual is held on a good day according to the zodiac between the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and the 10th day of the ninth lunar month. On the 11th day of the ninth lunar month: the villagers hang high a big flag, and many other small flags alongside the three – entranced gate of the pagoda. On the same day, palanquin and boat bearers are selected. On the 12th day of the ninth lunar month: On the morning of the 10th to the 12th days of the ninth lunar month, eight hamlets launch eight boats in preparation for a boat racing. Each boat is made out of light wood, 12m in length and 1m in width. Each boat can house 8 to 10 pairs of oarsmen, a guide and a helmsman. Festival
On the 13th day of the ninth lunar month, the festival commences with a ceremony of procession of palanquin in celebration of the 100th day death anniversary of monk Khong Lo. The procession brings the altar, incense table and big and small boats to the three-entranced gate in the morning. On the afternoon of the 13th day of the ninth lunar month, there takes place a boat racing. Spectators and fans flock to the banks of the Red River, standing along a distance of several kilometers. After the signal is given, the competing boats rush forward. At the end of three competing rounds, the first, second and third boat which reach the destination without violation of rules become prize-winners. At the end of the three-day competition, rating is carried out. In the gia roi tower there takes place a contest of reading oration of sorcerers. The orations are written by the sorcerers according to the topic of “six kinds of offerings” (incense, light, flower, tea, fruit, and food). This contest is different from other competitions as its orations are written in romanized script in the form of satire.
The more satirical the oration the higher the prize it gets. In the evening, all the palanquin bearers, flag holders, and village dignitaries selected for the festival come to pay respect to the gods. Next comes the contest of horn blowing and drum beating. At 24:00 hours of this day, the chief officiant conducts the ritual of paying respect to the pennon pole. On the 14th day of the ninth lunar month, in celebration of the birth anniversary of monk Khong Lo, in the morning, the procession ceremony comes after the incense offering ritual. Two pairs of white and pink wooden horses drawn by some people head the procession. Then come eight people holding eight flags, 42 people holding bat buu (eight traditional weapons) and lo bo, four people wearing black gauze outfit and white trousers bearing a dragon describing the journey by boat of monk Khong Lo to the capital of the kingdom to treat the king, four people in the same outfit carrying a small gilded boat put in a stand, depicting the period of monk Khong Lo’s life when he was a fisherman. Next come the octet, four persons bearing the altar, four carrying the incense table, eight children from 12 to 14 years old in yellow tunic, green trousers and red belts, resembling the buffalo boys who made friends with monk Khong Lo when he was a fisherman.
The gilded palanquin in which is put the worshipping tablet of monk Khong Lo is carried by 12 boys. The chief officiant follows the palanquin. In a purple outfit he solemnly holds his two hands in front of his cheat, walking leisurely to the salvo of the drum. The festival goers come last. When the palanquin reach a pond, four persons manipulating seven wooden puppets dance to welcome the procession. Of the seven puppets one is said to be Mrs. Chang with a cheerful and happy face. Legend has it that she often bought fish of monk Khong Lo. On the afternoon of the 14th day, the boi trai competition continue to take place in the river. At the gia roi tower there is a ritual of dancing to pay respect to gods, which is called “mua ech vo”. On the 15th day of the ninth lunar month, the ritual of presenting incense as offerings to Buddha continues. This night after the procession of palanquin the game of on – land trai boat dancing.
The boat rowing dance on land is performed by 12 people in fine costumes, standing in two parallel lines like the way they sit in the boat. Two persons direct, one holds a small drum and the other, a wooden fish. Under their signal, the 12 performers “row” while flexing their legs and crying rhythmically. This interesting performance attract large audience. This performance also puts an end to the three-day Keo Pagoda Festival.
Co Loa Festival
On the afternoon of the 5th day of the first lunar month, all of the eight communes (including Co Loa Commune and the establishing relations between seven communes) hold the incense offering ceremony at the communal house. At Thuong Temple, village officials and mandarins hold the similar ceremony and revise the king’s contributions and achievements. The official festival day, which is on the 6th of the first lunar month, starts with processions and grand sacrifices- offering ceremony. In early morning, a solemn and splendid procession takes orations from the oration writer’s house to the temple. The chief officiant at Thuong Temple has to come up and receive the orations and puts them on the altar. Next to the door of the temple is a pair of life-size pink and white wooden horses. Their harnesses are decorated with phoenix motifs and beautiful gold thread embroideries. The path to the temple is lined with decorative weapons and eight precious votive objects. At that time, the palanquins of the establishing relations between seven communes arrive at Thuong Temple and are put on the yard.
The worshipping rituals begin. Votive offerings include incense, flowers, truncated cone-shaped cakes made of sticky rice, fruits, steamed sticky rice, meat, giay cakes and popcorn. According to folk knowledge, the last two things were used by King An Duong Vuong to treat his troops. The rituals last until 12 o’clock. Meanwhile, in the temple, some senior people representing their communes pray to the king for peace and prosperity to their villagers. Next is the procession to take the god from the temple to the communal house so that he can watch the festivities. This is the biggest procession with the participation of all the palanquins. When reaching the main entrance called Nghi Môn, the palanquins return to their villages. Co Loa’s procession and palanquin do the same rituals once more at the communal house. This is the end of the official festival day. From then to the end of the whole festival, there are only duty ceremonies and votive offerings of residential groups, family lines and visitors. An Duong Vuong Temple Festival has a special procession for the fake king of Nhoi village.
On Mount Sai in Nhoi Village is a temple dedicated to Saint Tran Vu, who, according to legends, helps the king drive away evil spirits and build Co Loa Citadel. Every year, on the 12th day of the first lunar month, the king would go there together with his mandarins to do worshipping rituals. But because such travelling was quite complicated, King An Duong Vuong asked a local man to impersonate him and held a similar ritual. Later generations put on stage that story. Though this custom is specific for Nhoi Village, it helps to diversify activities of the Co Loa Festival. The Co Loa Festival has many other fun activities such as human chess, wrestling, cock fighting, swings, rope climbing, card playing, and cheo and tuong singing. On the final day of the festival, a grand farewell ceremony will be held at the temple. The rituals are the same as in the main festival day. After the rituals, the cult table of god will be returned to the sanctuary. Local people enjoy the god’s favour and expect a year of prosperity and protection from the god. Dong Da Festival
On the early morning of the 5th day of Tet Ky Dau (in the first lunar month of 1789), King Quang Trung defeated the Qin troops at Dong Da Hill, which became a glorious historical site of Vietnamese nation. Ever since, on the 5th annual of the first lunar month, Hanoi people hold a festival to celebrate this historic victory. Early in the morning, residents in beautiful traditional dress gather at Khuong Thuong Communal House, which is decorated with flags, to burn incense. A grand sacrifices – offering ceremony is conducted after daybreak. Until 12 o’clock, a god procession of celebration commences from Khuong Thuong to Dong Da Hill. The procession includes flags, parasols, palanquins with a variety of colours, and the sounds of gongs and drums. Its most special part is the fire dragon which is decorated with straw, cataphyll, and coarse paper. The “Thang Long Fire Dragon” has become a symbol of victory of the nation. The whole procession walks and sometimes dances in the rhythm of castanets. A group of young people, dressed in martial suit, then goes around and performs a piece that recounts the whole period of the war. When the procession comes to Dong Da Hill, there is an incense – offering ceremony after which someone reads the story of the Ky Dau victory that praises the military genius of the national hero, Quang Trung. There are also various games to play and competitions that challenge the skills and intelligence of participants on the wide field in front of hill.
Giong (Soc Son) Festival
It is said that Soc Son was the final place Saint Giong took a rest before returning to Heaven. The festival organizes every year in memmorating the day that the legend hero took off his armour and flew to heaven. It involves
an incense offering ceremony, Saint’s statue bathing ceremony, a bamboo flowers offerring (symbolize for riding-whip of the Saint) is on the 7th day (the main festive day), then thowing them, then people strive them for lucky. Cutting general ceremony symbolize for the action that Saint Giong cut the General of Yin invaders. On the 8th day holding gia dam (ending) ceremony. Games in the festival: fighting cock, playing Chinese chess, swinging, ca tru singing to worship gods.
Ngu Xa Village Festival
The bat cong palanquin procession is carried by 36 young and strong youths, going around the village. In the anniversary of the ancestor’s death, people eat steamed glutinous rice, meat of pig’s head dipped in salt and bean sprouts sour. The offerings on the anniversary of the death of ancestor are prepared by the 3 families: Nguyen, Tran, and Le which include steamed glutinous rice, gelded cocks, sweet short cake (banh khao – made of roast glutinous rice flour), green bean cake (banh dau). Ngu Xa Spring Festival also exhibits productions of bronze casting. Casters display these products on the row of tables covered by bright red cloth: dinh, vases, cranes, Buddha statues, tigers, dragons… Besides, villagers even hold cock fighting contest.
Elephant Race Festival
The Elephant Race Festival takes place in springtime, normally in the third lunar month. In preparation for the festive day, people take their elephants to places where they can eat their fill. Apart from grass their food also includes bananas, papayas, sugar canes, corns, sweet potatoes. The elephants are free from hard work to preserve their strength. On the big day, elephants from different villages gather at Don Village. People from near and far in their best and colourful costumes flock to the festival. The racing ground is 500m long and wide enough for ten elephants to stand simultaneously. After a salvo of tu va (horns made into musical instruments), the elephant handlers called nai take their elephants to the ground, standing in a row at the starting point. The leading elephant stands in front, whirling his trunk and nodding his head in greeting the spectators. Atop each elephant there are two handlers in traditional costumes for generals. The tu va signals the start of the race and the elephants rush forwards amidst the resounding cry of the spectators. The first handler uses an iron stick called kreo in M’Nong language to speed the elephant. The second handler beats the elephant with a wooden hammer called koc to ensure its speed and to keep it in the right line.
Upon seeing the first elephant dashing to the destination the spectators shout boisterously amidst the echoing sound of drums and gongs. The winning elephant is given a laurel wreath. Like its owner, the elephant expresses its happiness and enjoy the sugar canes and bananas from the festivalgoers. After this race, the elephants participate in the competition of swimming across the Serepok River, of tug-of-wars, or throwing balls and playing football. Coming to this Elephant Race Festival , tourists have a chance to indulge in the boisterous atmosphere of the festival, of the echo of gongs and the spectacular performances of the elephants from the Central Highlands forest. When the race comes to an end, the competing elephants bring back the atmosphere of the festival to their villages. Upon returning to their village, they receive warm welcome from the villagers. Very often the elephants from Don Village win the prizes as the village has a tradition of training and tending elephants. The elephant race constitutes a big festival in the Central Highlands. It reflects the martial spirit of the M’Nong people, an ethnic group famous for their bravery in wild elephant hunting. The magnificent landscape of the Central Highlands further stresses the grandiose characters of this traditional festival.
Leaving the tomb Festival
Unlike other ethnic minorities in Vietnam, some groups in the Central Highlands, including Ê dê, Gia Rai, Ba Na do not have the practice of worshipping their ancestors and deceased persons. The bereaved only look after the tombs of the deceased for a period of three, five or seven years, and thereafter perform a “leaving the tomb” ceremony to bid farewell them to the village of the death, and the tomb is left unattended. The “leaving the tomb” Festival is the most important one reserved for the deceased held by their family members. All the local villagers attend the festival that lasts for three or four days. It involves two to three slaughtered buffaloes and hundreds of small jars of liquor. The meaning of the “Leaving the tomb” festival is to see off the spirits of the deceased to their permanent world so that they can reincarnate and continue a new life.
As for the living, they finish their duties and are free to remarry. The festival is associated to the cycle of agriculture. It is held in the lunar first months that is the transition time between the two cycles of production. The festival is also an opportunity for farmers to give thanks to the gods and pray for a new bumper crop. Although this ceremony is associated to the death, it is very cheerful, bearing the nuance of a festival. The festival includes three steps: taking the tomb to pieces, erecting the new tomb, and seeing off the death’s spirits to their world and treating the villagers with a feast. Ooc-Om-Bok Festival
Ooc-Om-Bok Festival is a religious service that worships the moon deity of the Khmer minority group and prays for good luck, happiness, good weather and bumper crops. The festival is usually held when the dry season begins and rice are ripening on the fields. The Moon-worshipping ceremony takes place on the evening of 14th of tenth lunar month before the moon goes to the top. The ceremony is held in the yards of the pagoda or of residents’ houses. People erect bamboo poles with a crossbar on which they decorate with flowers and leaves. Below is a table of offerings that include green rice flakes, potatoes, bananas, coconuts, grapefruits, oranges and cakes. People sit on the ground with crossed legs, clasping their hands before the altar and look up the Moon. An old master of ceremonies says his prayers, asks the moon deity to receive the offerings and bless people with the best. After the ceremony, the elders ask the children of the house sit flatly on the ground with crossed legs before the altar.
The elders then take a handful of green rice, feed each child and ask them what they wish while clapping their backs. If the children answer the question clearly and politely, all the best will come to them that year. After that, people enjoy the offerings together, and children play games or dance and sing in the moonlight. Anyone who visits the Khmer’s houses on this occasion will be tasted com dep (a kind of young sticky rice). At the pagodas of Khmer people, locals hold paper-lantern releasing into the sky and putting on the rivers. The custom of releasing flying lights and floating lights is believed to sweep away the darkness, impure and sadness from the village. Many traditional activities of the Khmer are organised on the evening of 14th.
Lantern Festival in Hoian
During the full moon Festival, every house and shop in Hoi’an will be illuminated with lanterns while fun activities are held along the streets and in Thu Bon River. This festival takes place on every evening of the 14th of each lunar calendar month and Hoian is the best place to participate this special festival.