Thursday, April 21, 2011

Festivals in the central highlands

For the highlanders, spring means festivals that lasts the whole dry season, a time for rest, sing, dance all days and nights. Sounds of gongs and drums seem to be a good invitation. After harvest, the central highlandertras have their new rice holiday and it differs depending on each group’s customs. After the rituals to offer to the heavens, the gods of rice, mountains, rivers, streams…, villagers take part in hunting or playing gongs at their nhà rông or communal houses.

After New-year days (Tết holidays), the central highlanders have parties: bỏ mả or ăn nhà mả. They organize big parties at the tombs of the dead after two years since the burying, then they leave the tomb and never tend to take care again. During the parties they drink rượu cần (drink alcohol from a big vase with a long bamboo tube). It’s time for young people to show their talents while the old pray to the gods and souls of the dead for days and nights. They dance, eat and drink and the parties take place from house to house, from village to village.

There’s also a buffalo-killing ceremony in spring. They pray the god, to be blessed with good health, good crop, full river and stream… Offerings are taken from a buffalo. The ceremony lasts 2-days and it’s very carefully arranged. A column (named Blang) is colourfully decorated and people are very merry singing, dancing, drinking and eating.

In lunar March, there is a race of elephants in Buôn Đôn (Dak Lak), the home to biggest number of tamed and wild elephants in Tây Nguyên. The Mông ethnics are very skilful in taming elephants and the dry season is good for the race that normally takes place on 26th of March and it’s become a traditional holiday, a cultural event in the central highlands. The festival continues until thunders are heard to herald in the end of the season. Everybody get ready for a new crop, hopeful to be happy.

                                                           XUÂN THẮNG 
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