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Lao and Giay ethnic people enjoy traditional spring festivals

When spring comes, Lao ethnic people in northern Lai Chau province organise their traditional Cam Muong festival to pray to the gods of the rivers and mountains, as well as their ancestors, for blessings.

On the last morning of lunar December there are boisterous drumbeats everywhere. For the worshipping ceremony, the sorcerer prepares seven trays of offerings, including silver necklaces and bracelets, white coarse cloth, brocade cloth, betel and areca nuts, lime, several threads coated with beeswax, bows and arrows, swords and wooden spinning-tops.

At noon, a procession, led by people carrying trays of offerings on their heads, followed by a sorcerer, old people and the villagers, go into the forest, beating drums and gongs. In the forest, a bamboo-worshipping house with a wooden floor is erected under a big tree. The sorcerer places the offerings at seven worshipping compartments dedicated to the ancestors (the main compartment), the grandparents and the gods of the mountains, forests, and land. The sorcerer burns candles made of beeswax and reads prayers to invite the gods and ancestors to enjoy the feast with their descendants.

At the end of the ceremony, food and wine is prepared. All people enjoy the feast and dance around the fire until late at night. The sorcerer and old people give alias to the young people and the festival lasts from the first to the fifth day of the lunar New Year. Each morning, an old person in the family opens a jar of wine to worship the ancestors, then invites those who come to bless the family to enjoy the wine. In the common yard of the village, people dance and play such folk games as con (a ball made of cloth) throwing and spinning-top games.

"Going to the fields" festival of the Giay

Every year, on the first dragon day after the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Giay ethnic people in Ta Van commune, Sa Pa district, Lao Cai province, organise the festival "Going to the fields".

For them, it is an indispensable spiritual ritual in their life and the most typical and unique features of the Giay people relating to their spiritual life are showcased during the festival, including attractive and bright images.

First, the villagers wake up at 1 a.m and prepare offerings to bring to the festival. Exactly at noon, the solemn ritual ceremony starts. A sorcerer in an indigo dress prays to heaven, earth, and the Rice Genie and gives offerings comprising a pig’s head and two trotters, two chickens, rice, cakes and fruits. He also asks the genies to protect the villagers and help them harvest a bumper crop. This ritual lasts for more than one hour. When it is completed, all participants go to the communal ground to play traditional games and enjoy entertainment such as cross-bow shooting, horse riding and buffalo racing, con throwing, tug-of-war and stick-pushing.

Lao people playing with spinning tops in Cam Muong

VOV - (23/05/2005)

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