As an important occasion for the Dao Do (red Dao) ethnic community in the northern province of Yen Bai, the harvest festival has been preserved for hundreds of years.
The festival, found in Vien Son Commune, Van Yen District, begins with a traditional ritual prayer carried out in families blessed with the best harvest in the community. Locals pray for another bumper crop of rice and corn.
Each of the families selects a member to represent them at the prayer. Offerings to mountain, forest and skydeities include sugarcane, which symbolisesthe biggest rice plant in the hamlet, early-ripened rice branches and dishes of steamed sticky rice. All offerings are homemade to show respect to the gods.
Men are in charge of performing rituals at the ceremony, while women prepare offerings and cook dishes.
The ceremony takes place in two places inside the house of the selected Dao Do family: in front of the main door and in the back of the house that often borders a mountain.
On the day, a local magician chosen to officiate the prayer is the host family’s first guest. When the right moment comes, he reads prayers for the wealth, health and happiness for the community. Against the backdrop of the magician praying, four young men in formal traditional costumes walk toward the house from different directions.
As the prayer ends, it is time for locals to immerse themselves in folk games, singing and dancing. Popular games are tug of war, ‘day gay’ (stick fight – a game where two people holding one long stick stands inside a circle. The one remaining inside the circle in the end wins) and nem con (throwing a ball through a ringhigh above the ground). Dao Do people think that the first person who has his/her ball through the ring will have a year full of luck.
Dang Nho Vuong, a resident in Vien Son, said the harvest festival reflects not only the Dao Do people’s aspirations for happinessbut wealthbut also their gratefulness to ancestors.
As a unique community activity that encourages farmers to work harder in the following season, the festival receives great support from local authorities.
Ban Phuc Hin, Chairman of the Vien Son Communal People’s Committee, said that the commune has worked to sustain and promote the harvest festival for many years in the hope that the next generation will continue to enjoy it.