New Year Festival of the H’mong

Following are traditional Tet holiday customs of the H’mong ethnic minority in Vietnam. Each Vietnamese ethnic group has its own festivals, customs, beliefs and cultural practice. The Tet festival of the H’mong people lasts about half a month, during which time many exciting cultural and community activities take place.

New Year atmosphere can be felt at the weekend markets. The places are crowded with many sellers and buyers. The most popular items on this occasion are clothes, pork, spices, sugar and votive offerings.

According to Mong people’s custom houses and gardens are cleaned and decorated beautifully, befor Tet, not only people but also objects can have rest at Tet. Objects such as knives, hoes and shovels can rest after a hard-working year. All the tools are sealed on the last day of the year. Pork, wine and corn cakes are indispensible at Tet of Mong people. On New Year’s Eve, Mong people offer their ancestors with a pig and a chicken to pray for favorable weather conditions, bumper crop, health and happiness.

In December 25th and 26th, H’mong people start resting for Tet. Formerly, H’mong people didn’t make chung cake (sticky rice cake) but they consider meat, wine and corn cake to be necessary for the Tet banquet.

In the 30th evening of midnight, they worship their ancestors with a pig, a cock (a virginal one is the best). After that, they kill the pig and the cock. The cooked meat is worshipped then they enjoy the meal with wine until hearing the first crom of the cock.

From the 1st day of the Lunar New Year on, H’mong people wear new clothes and shoes to go out. Con (còn) throwing is one of Tet folk games that they are very interested in. Besides, there are more activities such as khon (khốn) dancing, u (ụ) dancing, pipe singing, folk music singing, horse racing and cross-bow shooting.

Mong people are hospitable. They think that the more relatives and guests they welcome, the more luck they get for the New Year.

Especially, talking about H’mong Tet, it can’t be lack of Sai San Festival, also known as Gau Tao Festival (praying festival), which is organized to respect ancestors of harvest, cattle and to pray for babies, happiness or longevity. If a family in the group has no children or their children are all either male or female, then the master of that household may ask the wizard to celebrate the Gau Tao festival- this is to ask for happiness. If another family whose members are always ill, the children are not living well or the crops often fail may also ask the wizard to hold the Gau Tao festival – this is to ask for luck for health and longevity.

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