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‘Going to the field’ festival of Tay and Nung ethnic minorities in Bac Giang province

(BGO) - The Tay and Nung ethnic minorities in Bac Giang province still preserve many fine traditional customs and festivals shown in their treasure of cultural heritage, including the "long tong" (going to the field) festival held in early spring.

Traditionally, on the occasion of the beginning of the first lunar month, the Tay and Nung people organize a ‘going to the field’ festival to review a year of labor and production and prepare for a new crop. The lineages in the village are assigned with specific tasks to prepare for the festival such as: selecting ropes to serve the ‘tug of war’ game, choosing spins, and making offerings...

Going to the field, festival, Tay and Nung ethnic minorities, Bac Giang province, traditional customs and festivals, cultural heritage

The ‘going to the field’ ritual with the first plow shows the desire for all things to multiply and crops to be lush.

On the day of the festival, the people choose the largest field. From the early morning, the bustling drum gong sounds echo in the village. The highlight is the procession of Tho Cong (Kitchen God) and Than Nong (God of Agriculture) to the field where the festival takes place. Leading the procession delegation are the gong player and two people playing wooden horns, followed by the shaman, the couple carrying the coil of ropes for the ‘tug of war’ game, and then two people carrying the drum, both walking and beating the drum.

As a custom, each family in the village prepares a tray of food to bring to the field where the worshiping ceremony is held. Offerings include boiled chicken, boiled pork and multi-colour sticky rice. The trays of the families are gathered in front of the main altar with a Tet bamboo pole covered by red paper. Under the main altar, there is a coil of ropes to serve the ‘tug of war’ game.

Once the gong sounded, the worshiping ceremony starts. The shaman read the prayers inviting Than Nong, Tho Cong, the Gods of streams and mountains to attend the ceremony. The content of the prayers is to wish for bumper crops; flourishing fish, chicken and pig farming; healthy people, more children in each household and the village, and no sick people...

After finishing worshipping ritual in the main altar, the shaman, the elder and head of the village go to mark the food strays of the families. The winning tray must be arranged according to the traditional custom with chicken, pork and three-color sticky rice... After the marking finishes, the families bring the food strays to serve people in the whole village.

According to the concept of the Tay and Nung people, the more guests the family invites to eat the food, the more lucky they will be in the new year. The worshipping ceremony ends, the villagers turn to festive activities and folk games. The games in the festival often carry the wish for bumper crops and good health.

In the tug of war game, people are often divided into two sides: the East and the West. According to the routine, the representatives of the East side always win three consecutive matches. The Tay and Nung ethnic people believe that the East side is where the sun rises. The East side’s victory also means there are the sun and sunlights, so that the crops are good and the villagers are wealthy.

After this obligatory ritual, teams in the village start to play the tug of war. The shaman looks toward the setting sun, beats gongs for three times, and recites a prayer: "Pull for rice and pull for good health." After he stops speaking, the two sides begin the game.

Clearing the road is a game with the meaning of agricultural beliefs. All the young men and women in the village in colorful costumes holding knives and hoes do movements symbolizing the actions of cutting trees, hoeing and collecting grass...

The ‘going to the field’ festival of the Tay and Nung ethnic people is a typical festival to wish for bumper crops. Both the ritual and festive activities reflect the aspiration of the villagers for good harvests and healthy people. It can be clearly seen that it is the belief relating to factors affecting agriculture such as reproduction, water, the sun and rice...

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Dong Ngoc Duong

Going to the field, festival, Tay and Nung ethnic minorities, Bac Giang province, traditional customs and festivals, cultural heritage
 
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