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VIETNAMESE FESTIVALS

Time: 15th day of the eighth lunar month.  Place: Every family.  Objects of worship: The Moon. Characteristics: Feast of banh nuong and banh deo (pastries), procession of lights, lion dance.

Tet Trung Thu is formerly autumn festival, and then becomes tet trong trang (moon looking festival) of children. On this day, the moon is the brightest and roundest in the year, cool weather. The festival involves the custom of trong trang, procession of lights (parading with lanterns shaped as moon and stars), lion dance and eating pasties and fruits.

  • BUFFALO FIGHTING FESTIVAL - DO SON

Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival Time: The 9th day of the eighth lunar month. Place: Do Son Dist., Haiphong City.  Objects of worship: Water genie.  Characteristics: Buffalo fighting, the cult of water genie

The Buffalo Fight in Do Son (Haiphong City) is officially held every year on the 9th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. There are, in fact, two rounds of elimination before the middle of the fifth month and 8th day of the sixth lunar month. 

The preparation for this festival is very elaborate. Fighting buffaloes must be carefully selected, well fed, and trained. These buffaloes must be between 4 and 5 years old, with a good appearance, a wide chest, a big groin, a long neck, an acute bottom, and bow shaped horns. The fighting buffaloes are fed in separate cages to keep them from contact with common buffaloes.

The beginning of the worshipping ceremony lasts until lunch time. A typical procession begins with an octet and a big procession chair, carried by six strong young men. The six clean buffaloes that are part of the ceremony are covered with red cloths and bound with reddish bands on their horns. There are 24 young men who dance and wave flags as two teams of troops start fighting. After this event, a pair of buffaloes are led to opposite sides of the festival grounds and are made to stand near two flags called Ngu Phung. When the right signal is released, the two buffaloes are moved to within 20m of each other. At the next signal, the two leaders release the ropes that are attached to the noses of the buffaloes. The two buffaloes then rush into each other with well practiced movements. The spectators then shout and urge the fighting along. At the completion of the fight, the spectacle of "receiving the buffaloes" is very interesting as the leaders must then catch the winning buffalo to grant it its reward. 

The Buffalo Fight in Do Son is a traditional festival that is attached to a Water God worshipping ceremony and the "Hien Sinh" custom. The most typical reason for the ceremony is to express the martial spirit of the local people in Do Son, Haiphong.

  • ELEPHANT RACE FESTIVAL

Time: Around the third lunar month. Place: Don Village, Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province. Characteristics: Reflection of the martial spirit of the M'Nong people in particular and the Central Highlands people in general.  Participators: M'Nong.

The Elephant Race Festival takes place in springtime, normally in the third lunar month. In preparation for the festive day, people take their elephants to places where they can eat their fill. Apart from grass their food also includes bananas, papayas, sugar canes, corns, sweet potatoes. The elephants are free from hard work to preserve their strength. On the big day, elephants from different villages gather at Don Village. People from near and far in their best and colourful costumes flock to the festival. The racing ground is 500m long and wide enough for ten elephants to stand simultaneously. 

After a salvo of tu va (horns made into musical instruments), the elephant handlers called nai take their elephants to the ground, standing in a row at the starting point. The leading elephant stands in front, whirling his trunk and nodding his head in greeting the spectators. Atop each elephant there are two handlers in traditional costumes for generals. The tu va signals the start of the race and the elephants rush forwards amidst the resounding cry of the spectators.  The first handler uses an iron stick called kreo in M'Nong language to speed the elephant. The second handler beats the elephant with a wooden hammer called koc to ensure its speed and to keep it in the right line. Upon seeing the first elephant dashing to the destination the spectators shout boisterously amidst the echoing sound of drums and gongs.

The winning elephant is given a laurel wreath. Like its owner, the elephant expresses its happiness and enjoy the sugar canes and bananas from the festivalgoers. After this race, the elephants participate in the competition of swimming across the Serepok River, of tug-of-wars, or throwing balls and playing football.  Coming to this Elephant Race Festival , tourists have a chance to indulge in the boisterous atmosphere of the festival, of the echo of gongs and the spectacular performances of the elephants from the Central Highlands forest. 

When the race comes to an end, the competing elephants bring back the atmosphere of the festival to their villages. Upon returning to their village, they receive warm welcome from the villagers. Very often the elephants from Don Village win the prizes as the village has a tradition of training and tending elephants. 

The elephant race constitutes a big festival in the Central Highlands. It reflects the martial spirit of the M'Nong people, an ethnic group famous for their bravery in wild elephant hunting. The magnificent landscape of the Central Highlands further stresses the grandiose characters of this traditional festival.

  • BA DEN MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL

Time: Spring Festival: From the 15th to the 18th day of the first lunar month; Via Ba Festival lasting from the 5th to the 6th day of the fifth lunar month.  Place: Ba Den Mountain, Tay Ninh Province.  Objects of worship: Linh Son Thanh Mau (Linh Son Saint Mother - Ba Den). Characteristics: Two big festivals annually.

Via Ba Festival The festival is held on the 5th to the 6th day of the fifth lunar month. At 0:00 hours on the 5th day of the fifth lunar month the Tam Ba (the statue washing of the Sacred Lady) ceremony takes place solemnly in the worshipping altar. An elderly woman directs this ceremony. After burning incense to ask for the Lady?s permission, she and other assistants clean the statue with pure water, then with fragrant water. After three times of cleaning, they wear a new outfit for the statue and kow-tow before the statue. Lights inside the temple are switched on, incense burned, and doors open to welcome visitors.

Early in the morning of the 5th day of the fifth lunar month the chanting of Buddhist sutras signals the opening of the main festival day. Until 6 a.m monks in yellow outfit from nearby pagodas come to carry out the ritual in the ceremonial hall. During this day incense is burned continuously in the altars of Linh Son Thanh Mau, the Ba Chua Xu (Local Goddess), Buddha, or Ho Phap (Guardians).

Ten offerings presented to the altar of the Sacred Lady includes incense, oil lamp, flowers, tea, cinnamon, alcohol, vegetarian it cake, a pair of necklace, bracelet and earrings (three things of them are paper votive objects). Those serving the ceremony wear ceremonial costumes and walk to the accompaniment of music. After the incense offering ceremony, the monks pray the Buddhist sutras. The ceremony lasts two hours from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. On the 6th day of the fifth lunar month several rituals are held. The monks read Buddhist sutras in the altar dedicated to Buddha. The temple is open for pilgrims near and far from early in the morning until late at night.

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