|The New Rice ceremony is a ritual to thank deities for blessing the villagers with nice weather, good production, and peaceful village. (Photo: sggp.org.vn)
After harvesting and stockpiling rice in their warehouse, the Van Kieu people hold a ceremony to thank the deities for blessing them with a good crop. Researcher Ho Phuong in Dakrong district said the New Rice ceremony, one of the biggest annual festivals of the Van Kieu, is held from October to December.
“The New Rice ceremony is held after the harvest. The community and families host parties to congratulate each other. In the last month of the year they relax, then begin to plough the fields to prepare for a new crop,” said Phuong.
Ho Nha, a respected man in the Van Kieu community in Dakrong district, said that during the New Rice ceremony, the Van Kieu offer their best rice to the deities. They report to their ancestors and the Rice God their production results, which assures them a sufficient life.
“The villagers cut the best rice plants, with the biggest grains, for the ceremony. The offerings also include chicken, pork, and other agricultural products,” said Nha.
The New Rice ceremony is a time for all family members to visit each other and share the joy of a good harvest. Ho Van Hoa of A Bung commune, Dakrong district, said that the New Rice ceremony is held by the clan, who invite friends and neighbors to attend.
“When a clan organizes a New Rice ceremony, they invite representatives of other clans,” Hoa said.
Families that experience bad luck during the year, failed crops and low productivity, prepare an even bigger offering to pray for the gods to bless them in the next crop, according to Hoa.
“If, before the harvest, a flood breaks the dyke and washes away their rice and corn, a family should offer a goat to appease the gods and pray for their blessing in the next crop.”
The New Rice ceremony of the Van Kieu nowadays is held by the whole village. Families jointly prepare the ceremony and contribute chicken, pork, and newly-harvested rice. The women go into the forest to collect wood, edible plants and roots, and fetch water. Men catch fish and collect honey for the offering.
|The Van Kieu prepare offering for the New Rice ceremony. (photo: sggp.org.vn)
In the morning of the ceremony day, all the villagers gather at the community house. The village chief performs rituals to invite deities and ancestors to the ceremony. He reads a prayer asking for blessings and protection for the villagers, their land, and their domestic animals and plants. Other villagers then wish for fertile land, for safety at work, for wild animals not to damage the fields, and for greater prosperity.
“The ceremony lasts 45 minutes. Everyone prays for prosperity, happiness, good business, and good academic results,” said Hoa.
The Van Kieu especially honor invited guests, who should bring a gift for the hosts. But even visitors who stop by uninvited are asked to join their feast following the ceremony.
Quang Tri province has been revitalizing the New Rice ceremony and combining it with community tourism development.