Tay and Nung people in Lang Son celebrated the Cold Food Festival with national cultural identity
– Tet Thanh Minh or Cold Food Festival has been regarded as one of the important holidays of the year by the Tay and Nung ethnic groups in Lang Son. It is an opportunity for them to gather in order to pay tribute to their ancestors and the deceased. The image of families gathering together around ancestral graves during Tet Thanh Minh has contributed to highlighting the cultural identity of the Tay and Nung ethnic groups.
Dr. Hoang Van Pao, Chairman of the Provincial Cultural Heritage Association said that Tet Thanh Minh is celebrated to pay tribute to ancestors consisting of two main activities which are preparing worship rituals and food offering and visiting graves. Therefore, the words “Thanh Minh” is used to describe the activity of visiting graves amid the fine weather in the third month of the lunar calendar. Culturally speaking, it is an extremely valuable heritage, demonstrating the value of gratitude to ancestors and origins of the Vietnamese nation. According to Vietnamese beliefs, Thanh Minh period comes 45 days after the beginning of Spring. Accordingly, this year Tiet Thanh Minh takes place from the 23rd of the second month to the 10th of the third month of the Lunar calendar (from April 4th to April 20th 2021).
People in the village of Quang Trung I, Quang Lac commune, Lang Son city making cakes to worship their ancestors
Tet Thanh Minh is also called as Tet “so slam, bon slam” by the Tay and Nung in Lang Son because it is celebrated on the third of the third month of the lunar calendar. However, due to the society’s changes and development, people can celebrate Tet Thanh Minh at weekend with the same religious rituals.
These days the burial grounds in the province are busy with people visiting graves and burning incense for their ancestors and relatives. Mr. Hoang Van Quang, from Tay ethnic group, Hop Thanh commune, Cao Loc district, said that despite working far away from home his family always gathered on the 3rd of the third lunar month to celebrate Tet Thanh Minh. He thought that family gatherings on that day was to pay respect and tribute to his ancestor and deepen his family tie.
It is observed that on the third of the third Lunar month, local people often clean up their family graves before holding religious ceremonies with food offerings and incense burning.
Nung ethnic people making “Ngai” or wormwood cakes for Tet Thanh Minh or Cold Food Festival
The traditional worship consists of two parts: the worship rituals held at home and the worship rituals held at the graves. Usually, after the at home worship rituals are done, the grave worship will be organized. The food offerings depend on the descendants’ circumstances because it is believed that the devotion is the most important. Food offerings often include boiled chicken, roasted pork, fish, fruit, confectionery, votive offerings … The interesting difference of food offerings between the Tay – Nung people and the Kinh people is that the Tay and Nung do not workship their ancestors with floating cakes and vegetarian cakes. They have “ khau nua dam deng” or five colors sticky rice (blue, red, white, yellow, black), wormwood cakes instead.
Ms. Hoang Thi Ha from Chi Lang commune, Trang Dinh district said that at Tet Thanh Minh her family often made colorful sticky rice and wormwood cakes. Her family often used leaves of traditional plants to create special aroma for sticky rice. She thought that those traditional dishes had attractive appearances and delicious tastes, so they were quite suitable to be chosen as food offerings.
After cleaning graves and worshiping ancestors, each tomb is planted with a colorful paper branch. As graves are usually located on a high hill, far from people’s houses, they often have a feast around the graves. Stories of dead people are told by the elder to remind younger family members of their roots, deepen family solidarity and honor their ancestors.
It can be seen that Tet Thanh Minh imbued with unique traditional cultural features has been well-preserved by the community of Tay and Nung people demonstrating the tradition of paying respect and tribute to ancestors. This tradition should be kept and promoted.