In Vietnam, spring is the time for traditional festivals. Thai A reports on this fun-filled season
Spring without village festivals would be like the Tet holidays without banh chung (square rice cakes). Although the sun is already scorching in the South and the drizzly weather is very cold in the North, no matter where you are in Vietnam, spring brings local fairs.
As the Vietnamese people work hard throughout the year, spring is a time to relax. During the spring festivals they will do little work, instead celebrating with friends and family. From large national festivals like the anniversary of King Hung’s death, to regional festivals like the Huong Pagoda Festival in the North, there is a celebration for everyone – even in the smallest of villages. In the heart of every village stands a communal house. It is the place where they celebrate. When the villagers awake on the morning of a spring festival, the sound of a beating drum will fill the village. As the village flag is raised, so is the level of excitement.
With a multitude of villages located across Vietnam, there are plenty of spring festivals, each one unique to its location. The province of Ha Nam in northern Vietnam brings villages together for wrestling matches, rowing competitions, and martial arts demonstrations. A neighboring village, Kinh Bac, is famous for being the birthplace of Quan Ho (Vietnamese love ballads). Locals hold a music festival and release birds to welcome the spring. In the South, the seaside village of Soc Trang attracts visitors will be played, special food will be prepared, and incense will be burned.
Sociologists have generally divided village festivals into two distinct categories: ceremonies and festivals. The ceremonies tend to involve more traditional rituals such as worshiping gods, deities, and ancestors by burning incense and offering specially prepared foods. Ceremonies will find villagers wearing long traditional dresses and turbans, sharing alcohol, and reading petitions together in the communal house. While the alders pray to their tutelary gods, children are not allowed to attend these ceremonies.
Festivals are very different from the somber ceremonies. Full of lively activities, dames, and competitions, festivals involve the entire village. With music and food, the village will be filled with the sounds of laughter and delight.
In one popular game, villagers line up pots full of water, each of which holds a small catfish. The game is played by couples who each place one hand on their partner’s shoulder and try to catch the slippery fish with the other. This demands communication and balance. Also humorous is the game “Cau Thom,” in which villagers attempt to walk across a pond using a slippery, muddy bamboo limb as a bridge. Both games result in a lot of laughter.
Ceremonies and festivals reflect the characteristics of the village. Whether they are celebrated on a large scale or a small scale, both are designed to bring happiness to the villagers and to the gods that they worship. National festivals will attract millions of people from across the country, while regional festivals will reunite neighbors. The smallest of them all, the village festivals, will bring joy to the locals.
“Festival unite the entire village with games, music and special foods.”