Nung’s birthday celebrations demonstrate filial piety

(VOVworld) – The Nung don’t commemorate the death anniversaries of the deceased. The children organize birthday celebrations for their parents to congratulate them on their longevity and show their deep gratitude for their parental merits.

Nung’s birthday celebrations demonstrate filial piety - ảnh 1
A Then woman sings and plays the Tinh musical instrument (photo:

Nung parents don’t celebrate their children’s birthdays. Only the children organize longevity celebrations for their parents and grandparents once they have reached 50 years of age. On birthday anniversaries, all the children gather to show their respect and gratitude for their parents.

Doctor Nguyen Thi Ngan, Director of the Museum of Cultures of Vietnam’s nationalities, says: “The Nung believe that they will finish their first lifespan in 60 years. If they want to continue to their 2nd lifespan, they must organize a birthday celebrations. From this age, Nung children organize birthday celebrations annually to show their filial piety and happiness for their parents’ physical and spiritual health.”

The children will take turns organizing a birthday celebrations for their parents. The married daughter has to return home to organize a birthday celebration for her father or mother at least once in her life. She will bring home offerings such as roasted pig, fruits, cakes, alcohol, and tea. All guests will bring gifts like rice, chicken, or pork, depending on their family’s condition.

The family invites a Tao shaman and a Then woman to host the celebration. The shaman’s prayers and the Then woman’s singing and musical performance can convey their messages to the genies and their ancestors. Truong Van Tien, a cultural official in Lang Son province, says: “Each offering item has a symbolic meaning. The party must have cakes made of plain and glutinous rice, which symbolizes flesh for their parents, and a boiled egg, which symbolizes the new lifespan and the harmonization of yin and yang.  They also prepare many paper puppets which will be burned after the ritual. This aims to protect the soul of the person whose birthday it is and chase away bad luck and diseases.”

The birthday celebration begins the night of the previous day and ends the night of the birthday. The Tao shaman reads his prayers to invite their ancestors to return to Earth to bless the person whose birthday it is to live longer, while the Then woman sings and dances along. She sings about the time before man ever existed on Earth and of birth, life, and death.

At the end of the celebration, the parents or grandparents give their children steamed glutinous rice or cakes to bless them with happiness and virtue.

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