The festivals of Vietnam: vibrant, dazzling and sometimes dark
10-10-2014 | Nguồn: asiatourmagazine

The year in Vietnam swings along to the rhythm of more than 7,000 annual festivals and religious holidays. They range from quite solemn to those that are all about colour and fun. Many of them are specific to the folklore of one region, but there are a few large festivals celebrated all over the country.

Lively fun during Tet Nguyen Dan

 

Banh chung and banh tet are indispensable of Tet

Banh chung and banh tet are indispensable of Tet


Vietnam’s biggest festival is Tet Nguyen Dan (Feast of the first morning). Held in late January or early February, it marks the beginning of the lunar New Year. For weeks ahead, the Vietnamese scrub and paint their homes, stock up on delicacies and buy firecrackers so they can start off the year on the right foot.

 

Visiting Vietnam during Tet is exciting because there’s so much going on. You can watch the preparations, enjoy the parades, fireworks and other public festivities; pagodas are full of activity and museums and historical sites that stay open charge no admission at this time.

Plus, if you make any local friends, you stand a great chance of getting to experience the festivities and feast foods in their homes.

On the down side, transportation is jammed just before and after the holiday as many Vietnamese travel to their home towns; hotels fill up quickly especially in smaller towns and your choice of shopping and dining is quite limited in the first days of the new year.

But Tet is definitely a time of great activity including days of banging firecrackers to scare off bad luck and brilliantly coloured lion and dragon dances in many main streets.

Trung Nguyen: The Ghost Festival

 

Lanterns carry good prayers for the wandering spirits

Lanterns carry good prayers for the wandering spirits


Many festivals in Vietnam have very unusual histories and practices.
Trung Nguyen (Wandering Souls’ Day) is Vietnam’s second largest festival. Many refer to it as the Ghost Festival. It is held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, often in late summer.

 

While Buddhist in origin, it is not only celebrated in pagodas, but also in homes, factories, businesses and government offices by people of all religious backgrounds.

Many Vietnamese believe that that sinful souls can be delivered from hell through prayers and Wandering Souls’ Day is thought to be the best time to amnesty for all the souls.

To appease the souls, additional altars full of food and other offerings are placed in pagodas and many public places. Long tables are set out covered boiled chicken, roast pork and other food money and clothes made of votive papers are also burned.

Khau Vai is all about love

 

Beautiful girls are all prepared for the love season

Beautiful girls are all prepared for the love season


A more regional festival is Khau Vai. This is all about a market place with a big difference. It’s about love, not fruits and vegetables.

 

Khau Vai commune, located in the northernmost province of Ha Giang, is home to several ethnic minority groups. The love market festival, held in late March, is a whirlwind of food and drink, musical performances, games, ethnic costumes and cultural displays.

Mythology tells of a couple from two different cultural groups whose romance brought bloodshed so, to stop the fighting, they agreed to part but made plans to meet yearly in Khau Vai. Now, in keeping with this story, the annual market has become a place where those seeking love for the first time and star-crossed lovers who can’t be together for whatever reason are able to meet for at least this one day of the year. People gather from miles around bringing flowers, incense, lamps and fruit to the local pagodas.

Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival offers thrills

 

Buffalo fighting always attracts many travelers

Buffalo fighting always attracts many travelers


The Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival is held in Do on Village, a popular beach resort about three hours east of Hanoi. It is held on the ninth day of the eighth lunar month, generally in early September.

 

Fighting buffalo are carefully chosen, well fed and trained for months in advance. They are picked for their handsome appearance including a wide chest, long next and bow-shaped horns. On the day of the festival, buffalo are groomed, their horns bound with red bands, to take part in a ceremonial parade prior to the fighting. Two at a time, the buffalo charge at one another as excited spectators urge on their favourites.

The bulls fight in knockout rounds until a single champion remains, then all the bulls are slaughtered. The winning bull’s meat sells for the highest price.

Springtime: Perfect for elephant races

 

It is spiritual bond between the elephants and riders

It is spiritual bond between the elephants and riders


Another festival with big participants, but a happier ending for all, is the Elephant Race Festival held in the springtime in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

 

On the day of the race, after weeks of special feeding and a holiday from their usual routine of hard work, elephants from neighbouring villages are dressed in bright colours and brought to the race course.

The race ground is 500 metres long and wide enough for 10 elephants. On each elephant there are two mahouts in traditional costumes. At the signal, the elephants thunder toward the finish line to the roar of the spectators, banging drums and clanging gongs, prodded by the mahouts using an iron stick and wooden hammer to keep their unwieldy racers on course. The winning elephant is given a wreath and a feast of sugar cane and bananas.
Later on that day, the elephants compete in swimming across the Serepok River, tug-of-wars, throwing balls and playing soccer.

From: asiatourmagazine

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