Millions of Buddhist followers and festival goers from all over Vietnam flock to Huong pagoda to celebrate the festival until the end of the third lunar month. On the main festival days, Yen stream is packed with hundreds of boats going up and down carrying visitors to Huong Son cave and other pagodas in the complex.

Three major stops of the festival route are Trinh temple, Thien Tru temple, and Huong Tich cave. Offerings to the genies should include flowers, incense sticks, candles, fruits, and vegan food. At certain times of the day, monks come to each pagoda and shrine to conduct a mass.

Long Tong or “Going to the field” festival in Tuyen Quang province

“I always want to visit pagodas with my parents and children on the first few days of the lunar New Year. I think this is a good way to educate children about leading a moral life and doing meaningful things,” said Nguyen Thu Ha, a festival goer.

After a tour of the pagodas, many visitors hike up the mountain to explore Huong Son cave. The charming streams and rivers, the immense blue sky, the quietness of the forests, and the mystery of the caves leave many hikers speechless in awe of the beauty of nature.

Leaving Huong pagoda, visitors head to Tuyen Quang province’s Dinh Hoa district to join the “Long Tong Festival,” a unique festival of the local Tay and Nung ethnic groups. This year the festival will take place on the 9th and 10th of the first lunar month. On the main festival day, visitors can take part in a ceremony called “going to the field” at the De Pass rice field. After a ritual conducted by a sorcerer, the villagers select a healthy man said to be good at farming to invoke a bumper crop by doing the first ploughing of the year. Ma Thi Cham of the Tay ethnic group in Dinh Hoa district said, “The person selected should be a village elder or a very healthy man who will start the first crop of the new year. The man will guide the buffalo and plough the first furrow to the cheers of other villagers who have come to support him.”

The Long Tong festival includes a “rice seedling transplanting competition.” In Phu Dinh commune’s rice fields, Tay and Nung women wearing traditional costumes transplant rice seedlings as fast as they can to the cheers of the crowd.

Many folk games are part of the festival, including blindfold games, throwing the “con” ball, and cross-bow games.

Quan ho duet singing and offering areca nuts and betel leaves are the two most popular cultural practices at the Lim festival, which takes place on the 12th and 13th of the month at pagodas and temples in several ancient villages near Lim mountain and along the banks of the Tieu Tuong river in Bac Ninh province’s Lim district. Nguyen Hung Vy, who has been researching Quan Ho folk singing for the past 4 decades, is a frequent visitor to the Lim Festival. Vy told, “I see more and more people taking part in the Lim festival every year. Quan Ho folk singing - an intangible cultural heritage of humanity - is the highlight of the festival.”

At the Lim festival Quan Ho folk songs are performed everywhere - inside local houses, at the village temple, in front of the pagoda, and even on boats in the middle of the river. Young men and women in traditional costumes exchange love duets featuring beautiful ancient Quan Ho melodies.

Source: VOV