Red Dao ethnic people in Lai Chau province boast a special festival during which sneaking into a home to steal things from it is not considered a crime. According to the local beliefs, if anyone can steal something without being caught, they will have a lucky year.

The NịnXin or “stealing” festival usually falls in the middle of the first Lunar month in Si Lo Lau commune, PhongTho district, LaiChau province. Prior to the festival, villages hold a water procession to pray for good weather and bumper crops.

To prepare for the stealing ceremony, a group of villagers carry drums and gongs as they walk through villages, with the sound of gongs and drums echoing all around.

When the group stops at any village, it’s time for amateur thieves to start their work. They sneak into homes to steal for luck, nabbing items such as stems of spring onions, wine cups or meat. If caught by the house’s owner, the thief will be punished by drinking wine.

For locals, if the stealing is a success, thieves will have a lucky year. On the other hand, if house owners can catch and punish the thieves, the house owners will have good luck.

The festival aims to educate younger generations to preserve their typical cultural identities while praying for luck, peace and happiness for families and the village./