Hà Giang has many cultural festivals due to the presence of more than 20 ethnic minority groups. Many of these groups are noted for their artistic abilities, especially their weaving and hand-made textile products. The Spring Festival is celebrated by the H’Mông and Dao people, usually shortly after the Lunar New Year and lasts between three and seven days. The people celebrate with singing and feasting and drinking alcohol.
Long Tong Festival
The Long Tong festival, or the ethnic group Tay’s traditional folk festival, is held on separate dates each year. The festival is held as an opportunity for local people to pray for good weather, lush crops, and fulfilling lives in the upcoming year.
The Long Tong festival incorporates a wide range of traditional rituals and activities. Drumming and traditional music plays while locals make promises for the upcoming year. Locals dress in lion costumes and perform a dance, followed by the Tich Dien (ploughing) ceremony.
After this more formal part of the festival, a series of folk games begins! The most popular include Tug of War, “stick pushing” and a traditional game called Tung Con. In Tung Con, everyone in the festival communally attempts to break a barricaded colorful hoop around 25 meters high. People take turns shooting colorful cloth balls with streamers towards the hoop to break through its paper barriers. The person who successfully breaks through the hoop is congratulated, and luck is believed to be brought upon the upcoming year. Very importantly for some visitors, the festival also offers a wide selection of local food. To name a few dishes: rice cakes, boiled aromatic chicken, locally prepared pork, chicken and duck eggs, and the very popular five-color sticky rice.
Khau Vai Love Market Festival
This special event is held annually, from the late evening of the third Lunar month’s 26th day and lasts until the end of next day in Khau Vai Commune, Meo Vac District in the northern most province of Vietnam, Ha Giang. Unlike any other markets, Khau Vai Love Market is extraordinary and remarkable because the people coming here do not sell or buy any goods. Instead, it is the dating place for ex-lovers who fell in love but could not have a marriage.
Khau Vai Love Market Festival is legendarily originated from a sad love story: A couple from different tribes deeply fell in love with each other; however, their marriage was forbidden by the girl’s tribe while the boy’s tribe wanted her to be one bride of theirs. A violent conflict later on was occurred between two tribes and caused blood shedding for both of them. To stop the nonsense and fierce battles, the couple decided to fall apart with broken hearts. Still, they promised to see each other once a year on lunar March 26th in Khau Vai. Since then, on every lunar March 26th, Khau Vai Love Market Festival emerges as an occasion for couples of different ages who used to love but could not get married to come and meet each other again. About a century has passed by; still, the festival remains and makes its main claims for a humanity meaning.
On the event, spouses can go to the market together but individually seek their own partners for sharing their innermost feelings. If the wife or the husband cannot go to the market, she or he will not angry or be jealous because the meeting at the market is just only a temporary feeling and cannot influent their normal life. The market also attracts those who excitedly want to find a partner for the first time. This northern love market with unforgettable emotions of its participants has been become a symbol of love and romance.
“Le cap sac”- A maturity ritual of Red Dao people
The Dao is called by different names such as, Kem Mien, Ku Mien, Man, etc. “Le Cap Sac” of Dao people in Quan Ba is one of the festival reflecting clearly the cultural features of this ethnic minority. “Le Cap Sac” is nescessary for the men of Dao ethnic group. It is similar to thanh dinh ceremony of the Mong people which marks the maturity of a man in a family.
Dao people has custom of opening “le cap sac” for boys at the age of 13 that is requested, the Dao ethnic group has the concept of making the ceremony to thank the god of the forest, water god, the god of new rice, the god of earth…and report to the gods that their son had grown up. When boys are recognized as mature man, they can attend the big works in villages, hamlets and lineage. Mature concept of the Dao is simple enhancement of ethnic pride but it is also a deep spriritual meaning in their intangible culture. “le cap sac” often take place within 3 days and 3 nights with many pigs and chickens slaughtered in a big number depending on the economic condition of the owner. It can be said that “le cap sac” is a mature ritual of the growing-up boys. This is an important part of belief in the spiritual culture of the Dao people.
Ha Giang Fire Dancing Festival
Pa Then ethnic has over 5.000 people living mainly in two districts: Bac Quang and Chiem Hoa. There still remain many festivals and customs from the past, in which fire dance is the most unique and mysterious.
The festival is considered as the new rice festival of the Pa Then. Fire dance fest starts in mid-October lunar calendar and lasts through New Year. To start the fire festival, it must have a sorcerer do liturgy. The rite includes incense, a chicken, 10 cups of wine, paper money. A big fire was burned and the sorcerer begins the rite. The time of liturgy lasts 1-2 hours before starting fire dance festival. When sorcerer beats the guitar, each youth will sit facing with sorcerer.
Currently, in the village of Pa Then, fire dance festival still preserved intact, regularly held on the occasion of New Year, it is one of the focal point of tourists when they want to explore unique culture of Pa Then ethnic in particular and the northern ethnic in general.