The people of Hoai Khao have managed to preserve their traditional culture and customs over hundreds of years.
Nestled in a picturesque valley, surrounded by the stunning Phia Oac and Phia Den mountains, Hoai Khao village in Cao Bang province in Vietnam is home to 34 families of the Dao Tien ethnic minority. This proud community has managed to preserve their traditional culture and customs for centuries, despite the difficulties and hardships that they have faced. The people of Hoai Khao continue to maintain their unique way of life and to honor their ancestral heritage.
The Tet Festival represents one of the most important events of the year for Vietnamese people, with their traditional New Year customs being preserved through several generations. Visitors to their villages at this time of year are able to experience and delight in the unique and fascinating activities of the local people.
On the 28th and 29th days of the last lunar month, in every nook and cranny of the village, the familiar and bustling sounds of the locals cooking up a storm for their grandest festival, as well as the joyful laughter of children playing traditional games, can be heard reverberating throughout.
One month before the traditional Vietnamese celebration of Tet, families in the village prepare pigs, chickens, delicious glutinous rice, and La Dong (Dong leaves) to wrap the iconic Banh Chung (square sticky rice cake). This dish is an indispensable part of the new-year celebrations.
Many families in the local area venture to the forest to gather wood to cook and provide warmth during the winter months. It is believed that having a stove gives the family a sense of happiness, peace and prosperity throughout the year. The stove is not only used to stay warm during the chilly days, but also to signify a prosperous life for the family.
Ly Thi Van, a resident of Hoai Khao village, said that all family members take part in the preparations for the upcoming Tet celebrations. Women often make embroideries on new clothes for everyone in the family, while men tend to the animals and cook food. Not only is this work shared, but it is also done with great care and enthusiasm, ensuring that everyone is ready for the special holiday.
Men are also responsible for cleaning the house, the altar, and pasting brightly-hued paper in order to rid the old year of ill-fortune and welcome good luck in the new year.
Wrapping Banh Chung is an opportunity for the entire family to come together, reflect on the highlights of the past year, and discuss their aspirations and goals for the upcoming year. Moreover, Chung cakes are seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the forthcoming year.
On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, each family prepares an offering tray to pay their respects to their ancestors. This includes a chicken, two pairs of Chung cakes, four bowls of vermicelli, four glasses of wine, and a cup of water placed on the altar. Together, these items form a meaningful gesture of reverence.
Praying to the ancestors to bless their children and grandchildren in the new year is a traditional custom that has been passed down through generations. This practice is meant to bring good health, business success, and abundant crops to the family.
Family members then have the opportunity to gather for meals together, taking advantage of the Tet holiday to enjoy a family reunion, sing traditional Pao Dung folk songs, and joyfully celebrate the Lunar New Year festival.
On the morning of the Lunar New Year, locals rise early to prepare offerings of gratitude to the gods of the water and the tree. They honor these deities in the hope of a prosperous and abundant new year.
On the afternoon of the Lunar New Year, people gather in their most festive attire to take part in the traditional Lion Dance. The lively performance is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. As drums beat and cymbals clash, the lion dancers weave their way through the streets and alleys, delighting onlookers with their energetic display.
In the evening, families come together to share a celebratory dinner. The menu usually includes dishes such as whole fish, pork, chicken, noodles, and dumplings. This meal symbolizes abundance and prosperity for the upcoming year. After dinner, people often exchange gifts and play games like mahjong.
On the first day of the Lunar New Year, locals come together to celebrate the start of a new year with traditional customs and rituals. Early in the morning, offerings are made to the gods of the water and the tree in the hope of a prosperous and bountiful year ahead. Later in the day, the lively Lion Dance is performed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. As the evening approaches, families come together for a celebratory dinner, exchanging gifts and playing games. Through these traditions, people are able to start the new year with joy and optimism.
They burn incense near wells and streams as an expression of gratitude to the gods who have provided drinking water for their family in the past, and as a wish for good things to come in the new year.
Dao Tien ethnic people celebrate the Lunar New Year, or Tet, by visiting their relatives, neighbours, and friends. They wish each other a happy new year and share stories of the past year. This is a time of joy and celebration, of fresh beginnings and of hope for the future.
On the sixth day of the first lunar month, locals in China celebrate by holding a ceremony to worship the Earth and pray for prosperity in the new year. The ritual marks the beginning of a new working year and is an important part of Chinese culture. Participants take part in traditional activities such as making offerings to the gods, burning incense, and performing lion dances. Through these activities, they hope to bring peace and abundance to their families and communities in the coming year.