The three-day festival takes place from the 12nd to the 14th days of the fourth lunar month and conveys people’s wishes for good weather and a bountiful harvest.
The game is played on a yard filled with liquid mud. Two holes, measuring 80cm deep and 50cm wide, are dug at both ends of the yard, for the goals.
During the game, 16 local men are divided into two teams who try to score by pushing the ball into the goal of their opponents.
The ball used in the game is made of ironwood, measuring 20kg in weight and 40 cm in diameter. It is kept in the communal house and has been passed down from generation to generation.
People believe that each push of the ball into the pit symbolises the harmony of the earth and heaven, good weather, and a bumper harvest.
According to the elderly people in Van Village, the mud ball wrestling festival is a time-honoured practice which used to be organised annually, but it was interrupted by war for a long time.
After the national unification, this game was resumed but took place irregularly. Since 2002, according to village regulations, Van villagers will hold the festival in every four years.
The traditional costumes of Lo Lo ethnic people in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang Province (Photo: NDO)
Other festivals across the country were also listed as national intangible cultural heritages, which are Tien Luc Festival (Lang Giang District, Bac Giang Province), Ky Yen Festival at Tan An Communal House (Thu Dau Mot City, Binh Duong Province), Dinh Thay Thim Festival, (La Gi Town, Binh Thuan Province), Van Luong Temple Festival (Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province), the boat racing festival on Nhat Le River (Quang Ninh District and Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province), the boat racing festival of the Khmer people (Soc Trang City and the districts of Thanh Tri, Chau Thanh and My Xuyen, Soc Trang Province), praying for rain festival (Van Lam District, Hung Yen Province), the festival of Binh Hai villagers (Ten Mo District, Ninh Binh Province), and the festival at Hung Lo Communal House (Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province).
The remaining recognised heritages include those in the categories of social practices and beliefs, traditional crafts, folk knowledge, and folk performing arts.
They are the new rice season celebration of Xinh Mun ethnic people in Dien Bien Province; Xam folklore singing in Ninh Binh Province; the art of Khen (panpipe) playing of the H’mong ethnic people in Dien Bien Province; the ritual to pray for new harvest and rain of the Dao ethnic people, the peace-praying ceremony of Giay ethnic people, and the decoration art in traditional costume of Lo Lo ethnic people in Ha Giang Province; the crafts of making fish sauce and rice paper in Phu Yen Province; and the art of vegetarian cooking in Tay Ninh Province.