An exciting boat race kicked off the Khmer community's Ooc Om Bok religious ceremony on Nov. 9in Soc Trang Province to worship the Moon God who brought them a good crop and abundant fish this year.

People lining the Maspero River screamed in encouragement as the rowers headed toward their destination.

Of the 50 teams participating, seven are all female groups. Most of the rowers are from Soc Trang and neighbouring provinces.

Female teams have to complete a 1,000-metre race, and the men 1,200m.

Celebrated on the 14th and 15th of the 10th month on the lunar calendar, the festival is one of the most prominent in Vietnam, attended by thousands who make wishes to the moon deity for prosperity and good health.

As a full moon appears on the night of the festival, local people offer green-rice flakes, ripe bananas, fresh peeled coconuts, mangoes and other items.

At the end of the ceremony, the children sit on the ground and clap their hands while they are fed a handful of green-rice flakes by their elders.

During the festival, paper lanterns are released and handmade banana-tree ferries lined with lights are placed on the river. This is believed to sweep away the darkness and humidity of the rainy season.

The completion of the boat race signifies the end of the villagers responsibility to the Moon God.

Soc Trang has the most Ngo (long) boats in the Mekong Delta, with nearly 100 kept at 90 Khmer pagodas. Every festival, the province's local men use 40 boats for racing.

The boat race continues on Nov. 10. The male and female team winners will be awarded a total of 30 million VND (1,428 USD)./.