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Phu Giay Festival

March 06, 2008          1646 views

There is a Vietnamese saying: "We have the Father's Festival in August, and the Mother's Festival in March." The Mother's Festival is held in the Phu Giay Temple which is dedicated to a female genius, Lieu Hanh.

The Phu Giay Festival is held every year from March 1 to 10 (lunar calendar) at the Phu Giay Temple, which is located in Kim Thai commune, Vu Ban district, northern Ha Nam province.

For a hundred years now, hundreds of thousands of people from many provinces nationwide have flocked to the yearly festival in Phu Giay. In the old days, the honourary chairman of the festival used to be the district officer or the governor of the province. Young men constitute an important force serving the festival. Each village contributes 20 to 30 young men, each of them carrying a two-metre profusely decorated bamboo stick for ‘stick play.' These young men with their coloured sticks stand in ranks in such a way as to forge four Chinese characters "Mau Nghi Thien Ha" (A woman whose virtue makes her the mother of the nation).

The same young men also play an important role in processions which escort Mother Lieu Hanh to pagodas. On March 5, "The Mother" is escorted from Van Cat Temple to Dan pagoda and on March 6, from Tien Huong Temple to Goi Pagoda. Each procession involves scores of lacquered and gilded palanquins each carried by eight people. In the procession a group of old women walk while holding high above their heads a long piece of cloth which is called 'The Bridge' for geniuses and spirits to travel. They are followed by young men and women clad in colourful traditional clothes, and hats who, along with thousands of other participants, walk while dancing and chanting loudly, their hands holding burning incense sticks. Because of the large number of participants, each procession spreads over one or two kilometres.

March 3 is the anniversary of the death of Princess Lieu Hanh, The Mother. In the old days, the anniversary was marked by a ceremony performed by the local notables and chaired by the district officer. It was a most solemn ceremony, and the participants were all clad in old traditional dresses worn by court officials. The atmosphere, the attire of the participants and their gestures and so on made many onlookers feel that a sitting of the Imperial Court was being re-enacted. The altar was full of offerings - roasted meat of buffaloes and cows, rice pies etc. Later, a second anniversary ceremony was added, performed solely by girls in their twenties.

The Phu Giay Festival also involves many traditional games well liked by the visitors. In particular, the 'human chess' game is one of the favourite items with real girls playing the role of chess-pieces: one team comprise girls wearing green turbans, and the other team girls wearing red turbans.

Source: vdc.com.vn

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