Giay cake – a unique wedding offering of the Tay

(VOVWORLD) - Ethnic groups in each region of Vietnam have their own wedding customs reflecting their unique cultural identity. For the Tay ethnic group in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang, Banh Giay – round, sticky rice cakes, are indispensable along with areca nut, betel leaves, tea, wine, steamed sticky rice, and chicken.
Giay cake – a unique wedding offering of the Tay  - ảnh 1Banh Giay – round, sticky rice cakes of the Tay in Cao Bang province. (Photo: VOV)

The Tay’s thinking of marriage is quite open as most Tay boys and girls can freely date before asking for their parents' permission to get married. The boy's family will send a respectful person to the girl's family to make a proposal. The two families show the girl’s date of birth to a shaman who helps them choose an auspicious day to organize the engagement and wedding ceremonies.

On the engagement day, the boy’s family visits the girl’s housetodiscuss preparations, including offerings. Nong Tuyet Loan of Thach An district, Cao Bang province, said that in the past the offerings included pork, chicken, steamed sticky rice, and some money. Now there are also cigarettes, beer, and soft drinks. The offering must also have Giay sticky cakes.

“The number of sticky ricecakes depends of the number of the bride’s relatives. Normally in my place, the bridal family asks for some money, 120 small sticky rice cakes, and a worship tray with 2 chickens and two bottles of liquor. If the bride has any single younger brothers or sisters, the groom has to prepare lucky money for them,” Loan said. 

“Sticky rice cakes are the groom’s gift to the bride’s relatives. Later when the young couple have a baby, the relatives who were given cakes will give the mother some food such as a pig trotter, a chicken, or sticky rice.” 

Days before the wedding, the groom’s house becomes very boisterous because his female relatives and neighbors come to help make sticky rice cakes. Everyone is happy to help because it’s a nice event for the family and community.

They select the best variety of sticky rice and steam it well-done. Then they pound the steamed sticky rice to the finest and shape round cakes. Nong Thi Khien of Chu Trinh commune, said small cakes have sweet filling made of pounded black sesame or green bean and sugar.
Giay cake – a unique wedding offering of the Tay  - ảnh 2Every wedding guest is given a pair of Banh Giay. (photo:)

The biggest pair of cakes, which are called ‘Mother cakes’, don’t have filling. The Mother cakes are died purple on one side while the other side is written with the word ‘happiness’, Khien said.             

“Having sticky rice cakes as a wedding offering is an old custom. It is not a heavy rule now. Families may ask for about 100 small cakes to give to relatives but some families may ask for only a pair of big cakes for worship. Some families ask the groom's family to bring the cakes on the engagement ceremony to distribute to relatives. Others ask to bring sticky cakes on the wedding day to share with guests.”

Each guest will be given a pair of sticky rice cakes. Nguyen Thi Luy of Hà Giang province, said, “We bring all offerings to the bride’s family one day before the wedding. The bride’s relatives come to eat the cakes together and spare a pair of green young sticky rice cakes, a pair of round sticky rice cakes, and a pair of square sticky rice cakes for the bride’s welcoming ceremony.” 

In recent years, along with the trend of returning to traditional values such as costumes and cuisine, many families have also observed old wedding customs, especially giving sticky rice cakes to relatives. Depending on family conditions, the number of cakes may only be symbolic, but it is necessary to have a pair of "mother cakes" to offer the ancestors to pray for luck and health for the just-married couple, and a prosperous life for the village.

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