The “Khu gia gia” Festival, which is also known as the Festival of June, is one of the foremost festivals of the Ha Nhi ethnic people living in mountainous areas in Bat Xat district, the northwestern province of Lao Cai.

The 4-day festival, with unique religious ceremonies and folk games, is organised in June every year to pray for a plentiful harvest. It is also an opportunity for local people to express their respect to the gods of the forest, mountains, heaven and earth through their traditional rituals.

To prepare for the festival, each household sends a person into the forest to cut down trees for renewing and decorating the house of kitchen god, which is usually located under a big tree in the village. Ha Nhi people typically organise offering ceremonies in the house.

On the day of the snake, Ha Nhi people kill a male buffalo, which must be big and completely black, as an offering to the mountain and village gods. Its meat is divided into equal parts and delivered to households for offerings to their ancestors. The buffalo’s head will be placed in the house of kitchen god.

During the festival, villagers will vie with each other to cook dishes for offerings to show gratitude to the gods and their ancestors. Sacrifices for offerings are always specialities which Ha Nhi people produce by themselves.

A traditional offering tray is required to have 12 different dishes, including boiled buffalo meat, rice, wine, ginger water, roasted groundnuts, beans and rice cakes.

Only families that have not been in mourning for three years are selected to bring their offering trays to the house of kitchen god.

Ha Nhi people do not burn incense and votive paper as offerings to their ancestors like some other ethnic groups, but express their prayers for the gods’ support to the villagers by kowtowing in front of their ancestral altar three times. After that the offering trays are taken out of the altar and everyone is invited to eat the food.

After offering sacrifices, the villagers join in sporting activities such as swinging, riding ferris wheel and playing teeter . Ha Nhi people’s traditional dances are indispensable at the festival. The rice-calling dance “A du lu che” asks the soul of Mother Rice to come to the village, bringing with her a good harvest and fields full of rice. In addition, there are also other activities such as love-duet singing, lion dancing and leaf-horn performances.

Ly Seo Cho, the 80-year-old patriarch of Lao Chai I village in Y Ty commune said he is always eager whenever he thinks about the festival.

According to Ly Thi Vinh, Vice Chairwoman of the Bat Xat district People’s Committee, the “Khu gia gia” Festival reflects the unique culture of Ha Nhi ethnic people.

It is also an attractive event for tourists, who like to learn about the community culture in Vietnam, Vinh said.-VNA