The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival

The Ha Nhi people celebrate the rainy season as an opportunity to communicate with ancestors and pray for good luck.
August 08, 2021 | 22:29
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The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival
Photo: VnExpress

Tet in the rainy season (De khu cha) is one of the seven major Tet holidays of the year according to the traditional custom of the Ha Nhi people in the Northwest mountains, usually taking place at the end of summer, when the rice plants have grown in the fields.

The Ha Nhi people live mainly on agriculture, growing rice on terraced fields, so attach great importance to worshiping agricultural deities, especially water and rain gods.

The rainy season festival (De khu cha) of the Ha Nhi ethnic group is a ceremony to pray for rain, taking place in the fifth lunar month every year, showing the harmonious balance between people and nature, praying for a favorable year.

Luong Van Thiet, research officer of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, said: “Traditionally, the ceremony of praying for rain is held at the peak of the hottest month of summer, which is June. According to the farming practice at that time, the terraced fields needed water to ripen and harvest. This is a ritual showing the harmonious behavior between humans and nature. The Ha Nhi believe that in order to pray for a year of favorable rain and wind, it is necessary to organize a ceremony to pray for rain."

On Tet holiday in the rainy season (May of the lunar calendar every year), almost every house in the village wakes up early to boil water, slaughter pigs or prepare offerings for the worshiping ceremony. The sound of the pestle pounding rice to cook and make cakes for the families stirs up the whole mountain.

After preparing, everyone brings their offerings to the edge of the field of one of the best rice farmers in the village to make offerings.

The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival
The person who plays the role of celebrant must be the owner of the house (father, mother), or play an important role in the community (village elder, village head, family head). Photo: VNA

The worshiping ceremony takes place from morning, when the sun has risen, and when noon nears it ends. The Ha Nhi believe that at that time the gods will hear their prayers. After the offering ceremony, the descendants of the family all eat a little offering to "get fortune" to pray for good luck.

The festival on Tet holiday in the rainy season in the villages still retains a happy and cozy atmosphere. Tet in the rainy season is also a reunion of families and descendants. From the afternoon until late at night, everyone in the village visits to each other's houses. Every house that has guests also has a tray for pouring wine. The cup of hot wine in the hands of the host and guest is like an invisible strings that tighten neighborly feelings.

Onthis holiday, there are folk performances and games. Before the day of the worshiping ceremony, people build a tree to swing on, a long-standing traditional custom of the Ha Nhi people in the Northwest highlands (mainly concentrated in Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Dien Bien).

Two swinging trees are erected in which the indoor swing is for children, while the adults play together in the middle of the village.

The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival
The Ha Nhi prepare the offering tray for the soul calling ritual. Photo: VNA
The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival
The sacrifices to prepare for the rite of calling souls are indispensable sacrifices, using chickens, to show the respect and gratitude of generations of their ancestors. Photo: VNA

The holiday is celebrated by Ha Nhi people for four days, and at the same time there is a four day restriction period. Nobody in the family is not allowed to go to work but must only have fun and eat, dance and sing together. This is also the time to rest and regain strength after a year of hard work.

Rituals and ceremonies mainly take place on the first day. However, in the last two years, because of Covid-19 people held Tet holiday in the rainy season over a shorter time, with the ceremonies also taking place on a smaller scale. Many sports, cultural and artistic activities in the festival are also removed.

The Other Tet: Ha Nhi Rainy Season Festival
The soul calling ceremony during Tet in the rainy season is carried out in many places to pray for children's health and good harvest. Photo: VNA

Through history, the process of finding reclaimed land, settling and creating villages fot the Ha Nhi ethnic community has affirmed the role of people in the harsh environment and circumstances of nature.

De khu cha is a unique spiritual product of Ha Nhi people, contributing to Vietnam's national cultural heritage.

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