Enjoying the Gau Tao Festival

The Gau Tao Festival  of the Mong Ethnic people in Muong Khuong, Lao Cai Province is held annually from January 3-6 of the lunar calendar. It is an age-old rite revealing the cultural features of the locals.

The festival is held to pray for good weather and abundant crops. It also provides a chance for the elders to gather and wish each other longevity and bless their descendants with luck and health; and for girls and boys to make a date and pray for happiness all year around.

On festival day, all activities of the Mong people take place around a Neu tree (bamboo pole) which is set up on flat ground on the mountain. The Mong people believe that the Neu tree serves as a bridge to link them with gods.To prepare for the festival, the villagers select a fine, straight bamboo tree to make a New tree and tie two ribbons of black and red linen on its top with the hope of receiving luck.

On the festival day, many Mong people gather around the Neu tree to participate in cultural activities.

The patriarch of the festival carries out traditional rites on the first day of the festival.

Mong girls joyfully participate in the festival.

Middle-aged people sing together at the festival.

The Mong exchange best wishes at the festival.

Mong men participate in traditional folk games.

The festival is the place where Mong girls and boys meet with each other
and find their partner. Many of them get married after the festival.

A Mong family at the Gau Tao Festival.

The joy of Mong children at the festival.

Mong girls select their most beautiful dresses to participate in the festival..

Food stalls are always crowded.

Mong women and children at the festival.

The ritual part of the festival is quite simple but very solemn. The patriarch of the festival offers incensesand goes around the tree six times before about ten people carrying umbrellas also walk around it and sing their traditional songs. Then, boys both dance and perform on pan-pipes and all exchange with each other best wishes.

The festival also has many interesting activities, such as the pan-pipe dance, singing, and swinging which fascinate the locals, especially young people. After participating in folk games, they often separate into small groups to talk with each other or take a stroll together on the hill. At the festival, a lot of traditional foods of the Mong, like Thang co and Pho chua are sold in small stalls to serve the locals and tourists.

By Viet Cuong