Sparing no expense on prosperity festival

By Tien Hung, Kim Thuy   April 6, 2016 | 12:28 am PT
People from a smallest ethnic minority group in Vietnam have upheld the tradition of spending hundreds of dollars - sometimes most of their savings - in a ritual ceremony to pray for prosperity

Ca Dong people in the central province of Quang Nam have upheld the tradition to pour millions of VND for a ritual ceremony, believing this will bring them prosperity and wipe out all diseases and evils.

Local residents held a ritual offering of three pig’s heads to worship the gods and provide hundreds of liters of wine and meat to treat local residents and visitors during the four-day festival.The festival usually starts in April when people in the mountainous village take time off to take part in the ceremony.

Households in the village take it in turns to hold the ceremony, so the “ritual season” can last for months.

“In the ritual season, villagers all gather at the organizer’s house to drink and singing all day and all night. I feel extremely happy,” Ho Van Tinh, 19, a local resident said.

It costs about VND20 million ($900) to hold the ritual ceremony, and not everyone in the village can afford it.

Many have to borrow money while others have to save money for years to hold the ceremony.

Nguyen Van Cuong had to save money for many years before he was in a position to host the ceremony.


Nguyen Van Cuong prepares wine for the ceremony. Photo by Tien Hung

He has tightened his belt and lived sparingly for a long time, and despite being in debt to the bank, he is determined to make his dream finally come true and host the ceremony for the first time.

“During the ceremony, there are bound to be added expenses, so I will borrow money to make sure my neighbors' stomachs are satisfied during the four-day ceremony,” Cuong said.


Nguyen Van Cuong. Photo by Tien Hung

“The ceremony will bring us an abundant crop and prevent disease and evils. When I am rich, the VND30 million ($1,300) I owe the bank will be nothing to me,” he said.

Besides praying for luck and fortune, Ho Van Kien, 36, holds the ceremony for another reason: to earn the respect of locals and show off his wealth. Kien has held the ceremony ten times.

"The more ceremonies you hold, the stronger voice you have in village issues," Kien said.

This year, among the total 20 households in the village, only five families will be able to afford to host the ceremony.


A mountainous village in Quang Nam province. Photo by Tien Hung

Besides this ritual, the Ca Dong people also have three other ceremonies to worship rice and water that can last for weeks.

At present, at least 80 percent of the population of the village is poor and relies on state benefits.

There are roughly 30,000 Ca Dong people in the country. They belong to the Xe Dang ethnic minority group and are not recognized as a separate ethnic group in Vietnam. 

Ca Dong people have their own language and age-old traditions, and holding the ritual ceremony is a way of preserving their identity.

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