New Year’s “Going to the field” festival of the Giay

(VOVworld) – The Giay people in every hamlet organize a “Going to the field” festival in the first lunar month to pray for peace, a bumper crop, prosperity, and good weather. The festival marks the end of the festive month and the beginning of a hard working year.

New Year’s “Going to the field” festival of the Giay - ảnh 1
People carrying offerings to the genies

The Giay people believe a Creator with unlimited power creates every thing on earth. Fairies live in the heaven and bless people with good things. Genies live on the earth and bring good or bad fortune or calamities. A ritual performed during the “Going to the field” festival worships the heaven, the fairies, and the genies. San Chang, a Giay man in Ta Van Giay hamlet, Lao Cai province, says: “The ritual worships the hamlet’s genie, who founded the hamlet. We also pray for bumper crops, high productivity, and health. It’s actually a fertility ritual.”

Older people in the hamlet gather at the patriarch’s house to prepare offerings for the hamlet’s genies including a duck, a rooster, a pig, and glutinous rice. They rehearse the ritual in a flat field near the entrance of the hamlet. Chang again: “The patriarch has to prepare several sets of women clothes, betel and areca nuts, a stack of wood, and a bunch of grass. The Giay believe that the genies have maids so we prepare clothes and accessories for them. We make some small, symbolic bunches of wood and grass. Betel and areca nuts are for the genies, grass for their horses, wood for cooking, and some boiled, painted eggs for their maids.”

New Year’s “Going to the field” festival of the Giay - ảnh 2
Strong men join a ploughing competition

The ceremony commences after 8 a.m when the sun has risen high. A shaman performs rituals to present offerings to the heaven, the genies, and the fairies. Chang says: “The shaman burns incense and invites the genies to sit at the altar. He tosses yin and yang coins to find out if the genies have come. If they have, he offers the genies pork, chicken, glutinous rice, and wine and asks them to bless all the villagers, their animals, and their fruit trees.”

The ritual ends and gongs, drums, and “pi le” panpipes are played to begin the festival. People enjoy throwing a ball called a “con”, playing tug-of-war and push-a-stick, and shooting a crossbow. Throwing the “con” is the highlight of the festival. A tall bamboo pole with a ring on its top is set in the ground. The ring is covered with red paper on one side, representing the sun, and yellow paper on the other side, representing the moon.
Old men and women stand on two sides, throwing the ball through the ring three times to open the festival. Then several colorful balls are thrown through the sun-moon ring. Hoang Van Ngan is a Giay in Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province. “The bamboo pole is about 10m high, sometimes it’s 18 or 19 m high. The sun-moon ring is about 60cm in diameter. We must throw the ball to break through the paper which is a sign of good luck in the new year. If no one can throw the ball through the ring, we shoot to break the paper before sunset.”

In the tug-of-war, the men’s team stands on the east, or yang, sole and the women’s team stands on the west, or yin, side. The women’s team pretends to lose so the village will have a bumper crop.

Villagers and guests play, sing, and dance together to generate more energy for work and release from tiredness and hardship. Tran Van Ngoc, Vice Chairman of Quang Kim commune’s People’s Committee, says: “During the festival, people practice their culture and receive encouragement for production. They understand and value their traditional culture better.”

At the end of the festival, village elders pray to the genies and take down the bamboo pole. 2 strong men lead two buffalos to make 5 furrows to begin a new crop.