|The opening of Tra Co Temple Festival 2022 (Photo: VOV)
Tra Co Temple is dedicated to the ancestors of six local families who reclaimed and cultivated the Tra Binh peninsula. They are worshipped as village tutelary gods who protect seafarers from storms and other dangers.
The Tra Co Festival is held annually from May 30th to June 3rd of the lunar calendar to commemorate the ancestors and pay tribute to their merit in building the village and defending it against foreign invaders.
Tran Ngoc Hai, Deputy Head of the Organizing Board of the Tra Co Festival 2022, said: “The Tra Co Temple Festival ensures favorable weather, bumper crops, and safe voyages at sea and teaches young people about their traditions and culture. I hope the festival will be widely introduced to the people of Quang Ninh province and other localities.”
At the opening drum, the festival begins with a palanquin procession to welcome the tutelary gods on the sea. The palanquins are carried by young men along multiple streets and along Tra Co beach before returning to the Tra Co Temple in Mong Cai city.
Along the two sides of the streets where the procession passes, families arrange trays of fruits and sea products, burn incense to show their respect and gratitude to heaven, earth, deities, and ancestors for blessing them in the past year with health, prosperity, and safe voyages to catch a lot of fish and shrimp.
|A palanquin procession to welcome the tutelary gods (Photo: VOV)
Mrs. Lai Thi Quy attended the Tra Co Temple Festival for the first time. She said: “It’s a sacred temple. This is my first time here. I will return many times. I hope my children will also come here to learn about the tradition and culture.”
A highlight of the Tra Co Temple Festival is the “Mr. Elephants” competition. The Mr. Elephants are actually pigs, who have been carefully raised for a year by 12 middle-aged men, who are strong, having good business and production experience, a healthy lifestyle, a happy family, and no recent death in the family.
Before being taken before the tutelary gods, the Mr. Elephants are washed and placed on palanquins covered with curtains. The Organizing Board judges the top three Mr. Elephants on the criteria of weight, size, and appearance.
Nguyen Manh Quan won the first prize at this year’s competition. “I was given one Mr. Elephant to take care of last year. It’s my family’s pride and joy. A man can raise only one Mr. Elephant. I’m very proud to have won the first prize. My family and I hope that the tradition will be handed on to the next generation,” said Quan.
After the competition, the top Mr. Elephant is prepared as an offering to the deities. Some of its hair is placed on an altar under a banyan tree near the temple. The other Mr. Elephants return to being normal pigs.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism recognized the Tra Co Temple Festival as a national intangible heritage in 2019.