Monday, April 18, 2011

Mông ethnic minority and Gầu Tào festival

Every year, when come spring and Tết holidays, if you go on excursion tour to highlands and Northern mountainous provinces, you will be glad to see blooming peach trees and plum and to discover the mysteries in the Mông minority’s customs and habits, to welcome new year that is usually celebrated in late November and early December in lunar calendar.
Photo: Văn Chương
Their Tết holidays last 12 days with many community activities, and most typically is Gầu Tào festival, one of two important events in a year to pray for good health, happiness and lucky children.

Normally, Gầu Tào (festival) is organized in 3 consecutive years and each lasts 3 - 5 days. If it’s for one only year, it lasts 10 - 12 days. Right from the 25th - 26th of lunar December, village boys have to fetch a good bamboo plant for a new-year tree (cây nêu) that is put on a hill-slop or in the middle of a large ground. On top of the tree, a pot of alcohol, a piece of red cloth is fastened as if to make a report to the local God, it means the Gầu Tào is ready. Gầu Tào may be held in a family or group of families, but it’s commonly participated.

On the 30th of December (the last day of old year), the house-owner prepare worship offerings: pork, square cake, round cake, rice, alcohol, rice paper... and the magician is ready for worshipping by the new-year tree to pray for happiness, prosperity, bumper crops... From 3rd – 5th of lunar January, a lucky house is decided both by magician and house-owner for the festival. Then, after a few words of opening, young girls and boys, dressed in new and colourful costumes, necklaces and bracelets begin singing the songs in praise of the village and their love songs. After that, hundreds of people go scattering to the fields, to the hills for fun, they blow bamboo plants, leaf-flutes and play games: spinning, sticking... that make things more merry and exciting. Young boys, dressed in indigo costumes, hand in hand with young girls, dressed in colourful start their singing contest and exchange heart-to-heart talk in love promise while guests and visitors are entertained by house-owner with foods and drinks.

The festival is over, the magician, on behalf of house-owner, expresses gratitude to the Earth, Heaven and Gods, then get off the new-year tree, burn worship-paper and spray the alcohol round. The piece of red cloth is taken off and tied to the house-door, meaning to be protected by God. A pair of a boy and a girl or a newly-wed couple (good and happy one) is asked to make a bamboo-mat from the tree (wishing to have good children and prevent the evils).

Gầu Tào has become the village and community festival in happy and merry atmosphere. This age-old custom has attracted more and more visitors to the region.
                                                                                  HẠNH THU
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