(BGO) - San Chi is one of the seven ethnic minority groups living mostly in the northern province of Bac Giang. The San Chi people have their own tradition and custom, with the wedding custom standing out as one of their unique cultural features.
“Challenge-and-response” singing between the families of the bride and the groom at the San Chi wedding.
Before the wedding, the San Chi people go through several stages – dam ngo (matchmaking), an hoi (engagement), thach cuoi (a wedding-presents exaction), dan cuoi (the groom’s family brings offerings to the bride’s family prior to the wedding) and don dau (welcoming the bride to the groom’s house).
The most interesting stage is an engagement ceremony, which is usually carried out in spring or in off-harvest time, and where the two families discuss and decide betrothal gifts for the wedding.
On that day, the groom’s family must send a male matchmaker and four youngsters to bring offerings to the bride’s house. The matchmaker must be from other clan other than the bride’s and the groom’s family. He must be a bread earner of his family, having a marital harmony and many children, and being respected by the community. The matchmaker should be verbally astute and understand deeply the custom and practices of the San Chi people.
After that meeting, before leaving the bride’s house, the groom’s representatives, except for the matchmaker, have their faces smeared so they will meet with lots of luck while cheating ghosts on their way back home. Ly Thi Nam of Kien Lao commune, Luc Ngan district, says the engagement period can last one to three years, during which the young couple and the two families learn more about each other.
“Take my marriage as an example. I had a wedding three years after the engagement ceremony. During three years, my future husband continued studying while I stayed at home. When I was 20, our wedding was held. The engagement ceremony was meant to declare that I was chosen. It also allowed me to have more time to fully mature,” Mrs. Nam said.
Unlike many other ethnic minority groups, the San Chi people do not exact a wedding gown as wedding presents for their daughter as she has to weave her own gown by herself with self-grown cottons during the three-year hiatus. One day before the wedding ceremony, the groom’s family brings offerings to the bride’s family to prepare for a wedding party. Ly Van Mac, head of Ho hamlet, Kien Lao commune, said that in the afternoon of the same day, the groom’s family will send a delegation to the bride’s house to ask for the bride.
“The groom’s delegation includes a matchmaker and two little girls. The groom’s offerings include blankets, mosquito nets, chickens, and a buffalo, together with 140 kg of pork, ordinary and glutinous rice, betel and areca nuts, and tens of bottles of alcohol,” said Mac.
On the morning of the next day, when reaching the groom’s house, the bride and her companions do not enter the house immediately, but stay outside. The groom’s family will send a representative to offer the bride’s family delegation betel and areca nuts, which are accepted only when the groom side’s representative spots the bride. After that, the bride’s family delegation is invited to enter the groom’s home.
A wedding ceremony is a happy event for the entire hamlet residents. At night, younger guests sing as congratulations and wishes for a happy life to the just-married couple. The songs remind the newly-wed to love each other and stay together through lifelong difficult and happy times. The singing performance lasting all night reflects the sincere sentiments from the wedding participants to the young couple./.