As an agricultural country with rice being the main foodstuff, every region in Vietnam is attached to a legend or a festival pertaining to wet rice cultivation.
The Chu Dong Tu-Tien Dung procession boats.
They share the same tradition of worshiping the agricultural genies, celebrating new rice, and praying for bumper crops. The rituals show people’s aspiration for favorable weather, good crops, and abundance.
Village festivals in the countryside are mostly held in the beginning of the year, the gorgeous season between the harsh winter and searing summer. A village festival consists of a solemn ritual and festive events, where people play games, dance and sing.
Da Trach commune in the northern province of Hung Yen is known for the Chu Dong Tu-Tien Dung Festival, which takes place on the 10th to the 12th day of the 2nd lunar month. The Festival is dedicated to Saint Chu Dong Tu, one of Vietnam’s legendary immortals, and Princess Tien Dung, who helped people set up villages, cultivate marshes into fertile land, and build a sufficient, happy life.
Families assign their members tasks to prepare for the festival. Young people will join the dragon dance troupe and a team to carry the Saint’s palanquin. Older people will serve in worship rituals and reception. The dragon dance troupe will lead a procession of the Saint’s palanquin from Da Trach temple to the Red river to fetch water.
There are palanquins to carry water jars and a wood statue of a carp. The carp icon is associated with the legend of a carp transforming into a dragon and represents the aspiration to conquer the Da Trach marsh.
Nguyen Huu Bon, a local man, said “The festival shows the people’s hope to conquer nature and their gratitude to Saint Chu Dong Tu for teaching them to grow rice, raise silk worms to weave fabric, and honor piety and patriotism.”
The water used in the worship must be taken in the middle of the river.
The procession of the carp and dragon are all associated with water, an important element in agricultural production. They must take clean water in the middle of the river to offer to genies. People believe that if they can take water easily, they will have a favorable year.
In the 4th lunar month, people in Van village in the northern province of Bac Giang, organize a wrestling festival to catch a lucky ball. At the festival, 16 strong, young men wearing loincloths are divided into two teams to compete for the ball, which represents the Sun.
Nguyen Thi Huyen, a villager, said “To start the game, the ball is passed from east to west, which is the rising and setting of the Sun. Catching the ball is to catch the sun to bring sunshine to rice and other crops.”
Coc village in Quang Ninh province is an ancient wet rice region in the northern delta. It has preserved many original religious rituals including the “Going to the field” festival which is organized in the 6th lunar month, before a new crop.
Elderly villager Dao Duc Tue said “The countryside has alkaline fields and salty water. Agricultural work depends very much on nature. People believe in the Agriculture Genie and organize an annual worship which is called the “Going to the field” festival. It marks the start of a new crop.”
Villagers express their gratitude to the ancestors and the Agriculture Genie for blessing them with an abundant life, good weather, and a good harvest. The village festival is a treasure of cultural values, community activities, and the traditional beliefs of Vietnamese people.