Top 3 Vietnam Festivals In January And February
Vietnamese Tet (Tet Nguyen Dan)
Time: The 30th day of the twelfth lunar month of the previous year to the 3rd day of the first lunar month of the New Year.
Objects of worship: grandparents and ancestors.
Participator: The biggest national festival that attracts to people through the country.
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- Nice clothes, or traditional costumes.
- Ritual of ancestral worshipping and a rite to see Tao Quan (Kitchen God) off.
- Best wishes for a prosperous New Year and family gathering.
Tet is the biggest and the most sacred festival. It is the most attractive to a majority of the Vietnamese.
Tet falls on a time when the old year is over and the New Year comes by lunar calendar. This is also the time when the cycle of the universe finishes: winter ends and spring, the season of birth of all living things, comes.
Tet is an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. It is a time when one pays respect to his/her ancestors and grandparents who have brought up him/her. It is an occasion when everyone sends each other best wishes for a new year, stops thinking about unhappy things and says good things about each other.
On the 23rd day of the twelfth month by lunar calendar, there is a rite to see Tao Quan (Kitchen God) off. The rite to say goodbye to the old year is held on the 30th or 29th day (if that month has only 29 days) of the twelfth month by lunar calendar. The rite to welcome the New Year is held at midnight that day. The rite to see off ancestral souls to return to the other world is often held on the 3rd day of the first month by lunar calendar when the Tet holidays finish and everybody goes back to work.
There are various customs practiced during Tet such as ancestral worshipping, visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, wishing Tet wishes, giving lucky money to young children and old people, wishing longevity to the oldest people, opening rice paddies or opening a shop.
Huong Pagoda Festival
Time: From the 6th day of the first lunar month to the 15th day of the third lunar month, main festival days last from the 15th day to the 20th day of the second lunar month.
Location: Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, Ha Tay Province.
Objects of worship: Sakyamuni Buddha, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Holy Mothers.
Activities: One of the longest festivals with the most spacious area.
Approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Ha Noi, Huong Son boasts quite a few pagodas built in the Posterior Le Dynasty. Until the beginning of the 20th century, there have over 100 pagodas. Visitors can go to Huong Son via the Ha Dong - Van Dinh route.
Vietnamese or foreigners alike wish to come to Huong Son in springtime. Heading there tourists come to a magnificent land, a famous beauty spot in Vietnam.
Going boating in Yen Stream, visitors get a stunning view of the landscape in springtime. Here lies Ngu Nhac Mountain, there stand Hoi Bridge, Dun and Voi Phuc (Prostrating Elephant) mountains. Then come Thuyen Rong (Dragon Boat) and Con Phuong (Phoenix) mountains, not to mention various other mountains named after their shape like Ong Su (Buddhist Monk), Ba Vai (Buddhist nun), Mam Xoi (Tray of Sticky Rice), Trong (Drum), or Chieng (Gong).
At Trinh Temple visitors stop to burn incense and present to the Mountain Deity before going on their journey to Ba Cave. In front of the cave spreads a land with magnificent beauty. Leaving Ba Cave, tourists go to Tro Wharf, the starting point for the trekking up the mountain. Thien Tru Pagoda is the first destination. Known as the Kitchen of Heaven, it boasts Thien Thuy - a tower-like natural rock, and Vien Cong Tower an exquisite terracotta architectural structure dated back to the 17th century. On the right of the pagoda stands Tien Son Grotto, housing five statues carved out of stone and many stalactites and stalagmites which can be used as musical instruments.
To reach Huong Tich Grotto one go past a winding path paved with slabs of stone nature has smoothed. Alongside the path visitors has a chance to feast their eyes on stunning landscapes. In the 18th century, upon coming here Lord Trinh Sam had the words “The most beautiful grotto under the Southern sky” chiselled above the mouth of the grotto. Pushing into its belly, visitors get a spectacular view. Many stalactites and stalagmites are named after their shape: Rice Pile, Money Pile, Gold Tree, Silver Tree to name but a few. Inside there are statues of King’s Father, Queen, Avalokitesvara, and so on. Noteworthy is the Cuu Long structure with nine dragons flanking from above.
There are many interesting pagodas, caves and grottoes in Huong Son. Among them include Long Van, Tuyet Son, Hinh Bong, and so forth. The Ong Bay (Sung Sam) Cave, 2km from Long Van Pagoda, still retains traces of ancient people some tens of thousands of years ago.
Unlike any other Locations, Huong Pagoda harmonizes the characters of a Buddhist architectural complex with the impressive natural beauty. Coming here, tourists have chances to live in a boisterous atmosphere of a spring festival amidst beautiful landscape. They seem to be free from all tiredness and sorrow and come to pay respect to the compassionate Buddha.
Co Loa Festival
Time: From the 6th to the 16th day of the first lunar month, the main festival day is on the 6th day of the first lunar month.
Location: Co Loa Commune, Dong Anh District, Hanoi.
Objects of worship: King An Duong Vuong.
Activities: The procession of 12 hamlets and 7 villages, the procession of “alive” king in Nhoi Village.
On the afternoon of the 5th day of the first lunar month, all of the eight communes (including Co Loa Commune and the establishing relations between seven communes) hold the incense offering ceremony at the communal house. At Thuong Temple, village officials and mandarins hold the similar ceremony and revise the king’s contributions and achievements.
The official festival day, which is on the 6th of the first lunar month, starts with processions and grand sacrifices- offering ceremony. In early morning, a solemn and splendid procession takes orations from the oration writer’s house to the temple. The chief officiant at Thuong Temple has to come up and receive the orations and puts them on the altar. Next to the door of the temple is a pair of life-size pink and white wooden horses. Their harnesses are decorated with phoenix motifs and beautiful gold thread embroideries. The path to the temple is lined with decorative weapons and eight precious votive objects. At that time, the palanquins of the establishing relations between seven communes arrive at Thuong Temple and are put on the yard. The worshipping rituals begin. Votive offerings include incense, flowers, truncated cone-shaped cakes made of sticky rice, fruits, steamed sticky rice, meat, giay cakes and popcorn. According to folk knowledge, the last two things were used by King An Duong Vuong to treat his troops. The rituals last until 12 o’clock. Meanwhile, in the temple, some senior people representing their communes pray to the king for peace and prosperity to their villagers.
Next is the procession to take the god from the temple to the communal house so that he can watch the festivities. This is the biggest procession with the participation of all the palanquins. When reaching the main entrance called Nghi Mon, the palanquins return to their villages. Co Loa’s procession and palanquin do the same rituals once more at the communal house. This is the end of the official festival day. From then to the end of the whole festival, there are only duty ceremonies and votive offerings of residential groups, family lines and visitors.
An Duong Vuong Temple Festival has a special procession for the fake king of Nhoi village. On Mount Sai in Nhoi Village is a temple dedicated to Saint Tran Vu, who, according to legends, helps the king drive away evil spirits and build Co Loa Citadel. Every year, on the 12th day of the first lunar month, the king would go there together with his mandarins to do worshipping rituals. But because such travelling was quite complicated, King An Duong Vuong asked a local man to impersonate him and held a similar ritual. Later generations put on stage that story. Though this custom is specific for Nhoi Village, it helps to diversify activities of the Co Loa Festival.
The Co Loa Festival has many other fun activities such as human chess, wrestling, cock fighting, swings, rope climbing, card playing, and cheo and tuong singing.
On the final day of the festival, a grand farewell ceremony will be held at the temple. The rituals are the same as in the main festival day. After the rituals, the cult table of god will be returned to the sanctuary. Local people enjoy the god’s favor and expect a year of prosperity and protection from the god.
This article is written by lan nguyen
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