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The feast to seek fortune by the Red Dao (March 01, 2005)

Preparing offerings for the ceremony. "Catching tortoises", a traditional dance of the Red Dao.

Over thousands of years of national construction and defence, the ethnic people along the northern border have created a rich and diverse cultural tradition, of which festivals are considered an important factor in their spiritual life with unique and distinctive features.

The Red Dao in Ho Thau Commune, Hoang Su Phi District, Ha Giang Province holds a feast to seek fortune in the beginning of the year, from the first to the 15th day of lunar January. The sorcerer, well dressed, plants an incense joss-stick in the alter to invite the spirits to attend and witness the feast held by the village's family lines. This aims at expressing their thanks to the Heaven, the Earth and the genies, who blessed them with a bumper harvest and will support them in gaining a better one in the new year.

A Red Dao girl at the festival. Singing love duet-songs at the festival.

"Jump over Fire" is the most important process. The Red Dao belief that fire brings warmness to the villagers and the Fire Genie helps bring a bumper crop as well as doing away with evils and diseases. As the sorcerer prays, some villagers, who are considered to be blessed by the spirits, one after another, jumps over the fireplace in the centre of the ground. They take fire and ashes by hands and spray them over their bodies. The burning charcoal explodes as the flame is rise. The performance continues going on until all other participants have a feeling that they also have some magic powerful strength that helps them jump into fire without getting burned. This rite is also called a "Fire Bath" that cleans the villagers from dust, protects them from evils and diseases, and brings them fortune from the spirits.

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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