When the drums are beaten to open the festival, all the people gather around a big wood fire and drink alcohol from a large vase. Young men try to outdo each other by beating the drums as hard and fast as they can to break them. Other people join hands and dance around the fire.

Under the full moon and by the flickering fire, the Ma Coong people take turns beating the drums, drinking alcohol, dancing, and chanting “My God, we’re so happy!”

The sound of drums is a spiritual, magical sound, like the voice of the Ma Coong people in the depths of the forest, unaffected by wind, rain, and creatures. Village chief Dinh Xon said, “The festival prays for good fortune for all villagers. Everyone enjoys the festival. We must uphold our tradition and develop it for future generations.”

Peter, a Danish expert on cultural heritage and sustainable development in Vietnam, said, “This is the first time I’ve attended the drum-breaking festival. It’s fantastic. The custom represents the relationship between nature and humans. It’s important to preserve this festival for the cultural diversity of ethnic groups in Quang Binh province.”

Approximately 3,000 Ma Coong people live in 18 hamlets in Thuong Trach commune within the UNESCO-recognized Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

In 2019, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism recognized the Ma Coong drum-breaking festival as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Department of Cultural Heritages has partnered with local authorities to train the community in preserving their heritage and has provided them with the necessary equipment and drums to practice the festival.

Nguyen Huu Hong, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Bo Trach district, revealed, “We are dedicated to promoting the cultural values of the Ma Coong and the drum-breaking festival. The district has plans to restore the festival’s original characteristics.”

Dinh Du from Ca Roong 2 hamlet explains that the drum-breaking festival is also known as the night of love festival for unmarried people:

“The custom is to beat the drums until they are broken. The festival is an opportunity for boys and girls to socialize and potentially form romantic relationships. They may even end up getting married,” Dinh Du explained.

When the rooster crows and the sun rises, the drum-breaking festival and the night of love festival come to an end. The Ma Coong people begin a new year of production. Many couples end up getting married after the drum-breaking festival, including Vietnamese-Lao cross-border couples.