A Kho Mu woman (Photo: dantocmiennui.vn)
After the engagement ceremony, the man stays with the girl’s family for a period of time. During this time, the man considers himself a member of the girl’s family and gets accustomed to their family life. Mr. Cut Van Thu from Tri Le commune, Que Phong district, Nghe An province, said: “I lived with my wife’s family 2 years before the wedding. It was compulsory”.
Usually the period of matrilocal residence is from 3 months to one year, then comes the wedding. According to the Kho Mu in Nghe An province, this depends on the bride’s family as well as the groom’s financial status. Mr. Thu said: “Previously the matrilocal residence time was longer, regardless of the groom’s family’s wishes. If the bride’s family had no son, they wanted to have the groom stay in their family for longer time”.
While living with the bride’s family, the man changes his surname to his wife’s. If they have a baby, the child will bear his or her mother’s name. But if they ever start living with the man’s family, the wife and children will have to use the man’s surname. During the time of matrilocal residence, the couple may have a baby, even though the wedding has not taken place.
If the groom’s family is poor, he may stay with his wife’s family forever. During the matrilocal residence time, the groom’s family will choose a good day to organize the wedding.
When a Kho Mu man and woman fall in love, the man asks the woman’s family for their blessing. If they agree, the bride’s family invite a matchmaker to conduct a betrothal ritual. Usually, the bride’s uncle acts as the matchmaker decides on the amount of money to be given as well as other betrothal gifts from the groom’s family. Mr. Cut Van Thu said: “The gifts usually include silver and gold. If the groom’s financial condition is difficult, the gift may be buffalos or cows. The gifts must be given one day before the wedding. Besides this, the groom’s family prepares 2 pigs, 2 jars of wine, and 6 silver rings, while the bride’s family offers 1 pig and 2 jars of wine. The wedding preparations are mostly made by the groom’s family”.
The wedding is carefully prepared to show honor to the guests. The match maker plays an important role. Mr. Hung Van Thang of Que Phong district, Nghe An province, said: “Guests are invited one month before the wedding by the matchmaker. It is our custom. Once the invitations are sent out, the wedding is organized”.
When gifts are given to the bride’s family, the groom’s family also makes a meal as an offering to the bride’s ancestors. Members of the two families attend a ritual to ask the ancestors to accept the groom as a new family member and bless the new couple with happiness. After the ritual, everyone sits around the altar and eats food from the offering tray before joining other relatives and villagers in a wedding feast which lasts all day long. Mr. Luong Kim Sinh of Que Phong district, Nghe An province, said: “The Kho Mu wedding lasts 3 days. It takes place with the bride’s house on the first day. On the second day, the bride is brought to the groom’s house. On the third day, the bride and the groom are educated about how to behave in the two families and given wishes of a happy and prosperous life”.
Kho Mu ethnic people have various agricultural rituals that reflect their farming habits. The new rice ceremony is the second most important ceremony of the Kho Mu people of the year after their ancestors worshipping ritual.
Shaman Hung Van Thang of Tri Le commune is praying in front of an altar set with agricultural offerings to inform the ancestors about the harvest. In the past, the new rice ceremony was considered the Kho Mu people’s New Year ceremony, which is held before the harvest. Preparation for the ceremony is made several days in advance. Mr. Hung Van Thang of Tri Le commune, said: “All the family members gather several days in advance to prepare for the new rice ceremony. Everyone helps prepare the offerings, which include boiled chicken, pork, cassava, and taro”.
Unlike other Kho Mu clans in Vietnam’s northwestern region, the Kho Mu people in Nghe An offer sticky rice, chicken, cakes, and wine. Shaman Hung Van Thang said: “During the new rice ceremony, I give the offerings to the ancestors and ask them to bless the farming tools and the farmers, as well as the ceremony’s attendees”.
The offerings for the new rice ceremony include clothes, ornamental objects, silver, sticky rice, and wine (Photo: baonghean.vn)
A second ritual is held to bless the farming tools with a wish for protection against work accidents. All the farming tools, including hoes, shovels, axes, knives, and sickles are placed on a winnowing basket and sprinkled with bran and rice husks. Mr. Thang: “It is like we are feeding the farming tools to keep us safe while working. When the rice has ripened, a good day is selected to harvest. We hold a ceremony to celebrate the new rice and pray for good health, prosperity, and bumper crops”.
At the ceremony, everyone gathers around the food placed in front of the ancestors’ altar. The shaman dips a ball of sticky rice into a bowl of chicken blood, and presses it onto the foreheads of all the family members to wish them good health and drive away evil. When the ritual ends, family members gather around, drink wine, and eat the offerings. They also play the gong, sing, and dance. Mr. Cut Van Thu of Tri Le commune, Que Phong district, said the family often invites other clans in the village to join their new rice ceremony. The guests may bring to the host’s house gifts of rice, wine, or cakes.
The new rice ceremony is not only a ritual for worshiping ancestors, but an opportunity for family members and neighbors to gather.