“Living” museum of culture
Hanoi currently has nearly 2,000 intangible cultural heritages, classified into six categories including folk literature (14 heritages), folk performance arts (79 heritages), social customs and beliefs (213 heritages), folk intellect (106 heritages) and traditional festivals (1206 heritages accounting for 67.2 per cent of the national total intangible cultural heritages) of which some have been recognized by UNESCO as the cultural heritages of humanity such as Giong Festival in Soc Son and Gia Lam districts, the ritual and tug-of-war games in Thach Ban Festival in Gia Lam district.
|Giong Festival in Soc Son District. Photo: Tran Thuong
As one of the few localities with the most festivals in the country, the system of traditional festivals in Hanoi shows a diversity imbued with folk characteristics, reflecting the life of wet rice civilization. Like other places in Vietnam, the folk festivals in Hanoi are mostly held on the in spring every year. The city is regarded as the “Living Museum” of culture, which contains aspirations, emotions, activities, customs… of the community which have been selected and passed down through many generations.
There are some typical traditional festivals in Thang Long – Hanoi, such as the Giong Festival held at the Soc Temple in the Soc Son district and the Phu Dong temple in the Gia Lam district that worshiped and honored Saint Giong, a legendary national hero, recognized by UNESCO as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The festival is held annually in two locations at different times and in different ways since the Soc Son one takes place from January 6 to 8 of the lunar calendar and the other takes place from April 7 to 9 of the lunar calendar. .
Other popular festivals include Co Loa Festival in Dong Anh District on January 6-18 of the lunar calendar to honor King An Duong Vuong Thuc Phan; Perfume Pagoda Festival in My Duc district on January 6 of the lunar calendar; Tan Vien Son Thanh Festival in Ba Vi District to honor and worship Saint Tan Vien on January 13-15 of the lunar calendar; Dong Da Festival in Dong Da District on January 5 of the lunar calendar, to honor Emperor Quang Trung – Nguyen Hue; Hai Ba Trung Festival in Me Linh and at Hat Mon Districts, among others
In addition to the typical city-level festivals that have become regional festivals in Hanoi, village festivals are also held in spring to meet people’s religious, spiritual, and entertainment needs.
Innovation toward civilization
Most of the festivals are held in traditional rituals, but some have been adapted to modern times. For example, the Festival in Ha Dong district on January 10 of the lunar calendar in honor of procreation, in which during the time of the festivities, men and women were free to mate and if the woman became pregnant, she would not be punished by the village elders. This practice has been abolished. Or the Pig Festival in Phu Xuyen district on January 7 of the lunar calendar which used to be a pig slaughter competition in the old days to prepare food for the army, has been canceled because it is considered brutal.
The traditional Thang Long – Hanoi festival is an important value in the cultural space of the capital. Along with the movement and development of Hanoi, traditional festivals are the heritage that contains the most outstanding values and that have changed in the integration period, however, their quintessence is still preserved.
Over the past years, along with the ritual ceremony of the festivals, other parts of ethnic art performances, folk games, traditional cuisine, etc. of each locality have also been maintained and promoted.