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Last updated: Friday, February 23, 2018

 

Spring on Northwest Mountains

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2018


The Northwest becomes more colourful as local people crowd markets for their Tet preparations. Markets are full of the colours of textured costumes worn by young hill-tribe girls and full of bartering sounds uttered by buyers and sellers. Bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new one with fervent hopes for good luck and good things to come, each people has its own distinctive Tet traditions that conjure a colourful picture of Tet.
 
Tet of Thai people

The Thai people in Lai Chau and Son La provinces celebrate Tet in the entire season and they thus call it Tet season. The first festivity is Soong Sip or New Rice Tet, which starts when rice ripens. They slaughter buffaloes and swine and cook new rice for festive offerings. Following Soong Sip is Kim Lao Mao Tet (wine drinking), Kitchen God Tet and the largest Nen Buon Tien Tet (Lunar New Year). On the first day of the new year, they use knives to cut off roadside plants and shrubs to clear the way to welcome the new year. The most joyful feeling is brought by Thai dancing rituals and other festive activities held till the middle of the first lunar month.

Tet of H'Mong people
The H'Mong houses are colourfully decorated, with red being the main colour. Tet is called NaoX-Cha by the H'Mong people. Their Tet meals feature best pork and sticky rice. The H'Mong people usually welcome the New Year in the middle of wintertime, which is usually some days before or after the Solar New Year. On New Year's Eve, families often send their sons to “open water”, meaning going to the spring or the river to get water for ancestral offerings. If you visit H'Mong families on the New Year's Day, the host will greet you with the phrase “sunshine is rising up”, meaning wishing you good health. You will be invited to drink and smoke. But, you should not use your hand to tap on the pipe because that action means bad luck. The H'Mong people are afraid of rain and flooding, and you thus should not fill your bowl of rice with soup.

Tet of Dao people
The Dao people believe that the first day of the year is the day of playing, greeting and visiting each other, not working. Every family brightly decorates their home and hangs parallel sentences on pillars or on walls to welcome the spring. The Dao people welcome Tet with a ceremonial dance called “Nhiang Cham Dao” to enhance their health and martial skills. The rite starts a few days before the official New Year. Young boys and girls gather to practice dancing and make wooden weapons for the ceremonial dance. People dance in and out to the joyful drumbeat.

Unique Tet of Lo Lo people
On the last two days of the old year, Lo Lo families tidy up their houses, prepare pigs, chickens and fruit cakes to worship ancestors. In addition, according to Lo Lo beliefs, saving cereal grains, firewood and water is also a must for the Lo Lo people, because these represent a year of prosperity.

On the afternoon of the last day of the year, Lo Lo families reunite around the year-end meal, pay tribute to their ancestors and bless family members. For the Lo Lo people, New Year's Eve is the busiest night of the year. They welcome the turning point of the two years by waking up all animals they keep, and also put yellow or silver papers on household items and trees in the garden with the belief that they will rest for three Tet days. All people stay up all night long to wait for the first cock crow
.
Tet of Red Dao people
The Red Dao people retain their distinctive Tet culture to date. Like other ethnic groups in Vietnam, they celebrate Lunar New Year. In the last 10 days of the old year, most families stop daily business activities to prepare for Tet. They also worship Kitchen Gods like the Kinh people, but they do not conduct the rite on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, but combine it with the last meal of the year. Apart from chung cake, gu cake, pork, chicken and wine, the meal also has day cake or sticky rice cake wrapped with sorrel leaves.

The Red Dao people do not perform the ceremony themselves, but summon shamans or well-reputed elders in the community to host it. In the presence of all members of the family, the worshippers on behalf of the owner proceed with the rite to dispel all risks and misfortunes in the old year. And, they call up “home ghosts”, including ancestors and deaths, to come back home to enjoy Tet, pray for health, luck and peace for everyone, pray for good rain and wind and healthy cattle and poultry.

Tet of Cao Lan people
Like the Kinh people, the Cao Lan people celebrate Tet from the end of the last lunar month to the first month of the next year. Characteristically, they worship both at home and at village house and they retain the rite of taking water from the well in the village house for worshipping. Two days before the New Year, they stick red papers on gates, doors, ancestral altars, millstones, pigsties, buffalo stables and chicken coops. The whole house suddenly turns brightly red. According to the Cao Lan beliefs, the red paper symbolises joy and goodness. Sticking the red paper on important places means starting a new year with the desire for prosperity.

They visit relatives on the first day of the new year and drop in on neighbours a day later. Typical Tet dishes are triangle-shaped sticky rice cake or vat vai (hang over the shoulder) cake besides Chung cake. Wrapped in banana leave and stuffed with ground bean and sugar inside, vat vai cake is a must Tet food in all families. During the New Year Festival, the Cao Lan people bring this cake to relatives and they can hang them over their shoulders, the reason for its name.

If having the chance to go to Northwest Vietnam during the springtime, visitors will be filled with the warmth of the climate there under the spring sky and land full of colours and flowers.

Thanh Nga








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