Sometimes, two friends who are very close and share a strong bond might want to become twins in a symbolic sense.
This ceremony is known as “Tong,” which means “congeniality” or “similarity” in the Tay language. It is important to note that the Tong relationship is only possible between two individuals of the same gender and cannot be between a man and a woman.
The Tay people have the tradition of twinning with individuals from other ethnic groups, such as the Nung and Mong. There are various reasons why two people may enter into a Tong relationship. It could be because they were born in the same year, share the same name, or have similar ambitions, passions, and circumstances.
When two individuals embark on a Tong relationship, they attend each other’s family events as if they were members of the same family. Even their own family members, including spouses, children, and relatives, are ready to help each other’s families whenever needed.
Loc Ninh Tan from Na Hang town in Tuyen Quang province mentioned that Tong friends and their relationship are highly respected. “The Tong ceremony is a simple affair. Life has its ups and downs, but Tong friends always stand by each other, sharing both joys and sorrows,” he said.
Hoang Hung Chanh, Head of the Ethnicity Office of Na Hang district, stated that after twinning, both families consider each other’s parents, siblings, and relatives as their own.
“We address the other’s grandparents, parents, and relatives as if they were part of our own family. It is a mutual understanding based on the desire to honor our ancestors’ customs,” Chanh explained.
One interesting aspect of this relationship is that Tong friends do not put up any formalities and instead, treat each other in an informal and close manner.
Chau Minh Vi, a Tay man from Tuyen Quang province, shared that after the twinning ceremony, Tong friends often bring a gift when they visit each other’s homes. These gifts hold more spiritual value than material worth.
“When they meet, they bring each other a package containing spices, sugar, or candies. These gifts symbolize their wish for their emotions to always be sweet,” Vi said.
Loc Ninh Tan mentioned that Tong friends always support each other and visit each other regularly, even without any specific reason. “They maintain a continuous connection, not limiting it to one or two visits per year. This is a lifelong commitment,” Tan added.
Tong friends also teach their children about the twinning relationship so that they can nurture a respectful bond with their father’s friend. “I inform my family about my Tong friend and his family. I want my children and grandchildren to uphold and cherish this relationship,” expressed Loc Ninh Tan.
Even when one of the Tong friends passes away, their children continue to maintain the relationship and take care of each other’s family matters as if they were their own.
Loc Ninh Tan emphasized, “When a Tong friend passes away, the relationship remains. My friend’s children call me ‘father,’ and I consider my Tong friend’s children as my own. Both families hold deep respect and treasure this Tong relationship.”