The traditional festival Cau Ngu is unique and imbrued with the cultural identity of coastal community. The fishermen here consider whale, a giant yet nice creature, as the companion of seafarers in their voyages, on the vast ocean full of danger. To these people’s mind, whale is not just a normal kind of mammal, but Sir Nam Hai-they are sanctified.
Cau Ngu Festival
The village where whales’ bodies drifted into when they die would build up a temple to properly venerate them, called Nam Hai Whale Temple (Lang Ong Nam Hai). That is the origin of Cau Ngu, a festival that has gone through a long history and become an important spiritual activity.
The festival starts with solemn ritual ceremonies, in which elders hold a palanquin procession from villages to villages, displaying fishermen’s union and expressing gratitude towards their ancestors and guardians. According to fishermen’s belief, if they put much thought into the rituals, celebrate them with huge reverence, they will be guaranteed a life with safe and sound sea journeys, great fishing results, and full of wealth and comfort.
In the early morning, a group of local residents took part in a procession to deliver a funeral oration from the district’s Tan Thai Village Communal House to the temple. The procession included flag bearers, members of a ‘ba trao’ (dancing and singing local traditional folk songs) team, senior male residents in ‘ao dai’ (Vietnamese traditional long dress) and ‘khan dong’ (turban), with some of their acolytes in blue ‘ao dai’, and 4 local men carrying an eye-catching palanquin.
The main traditional ritual at the temple was a funeral oration-reading ceremony to honour the merits and virtues of the whale, and to show the local fishermen’s strong desire for peaceful offshore fishing trips with bumper catches. It was followed by an interesting Tuong (classical drama) performance by artistes from the Nguyen Hien Dinh Tuong Theatre.
In addition, various exciting competitions were held, including fishing net knitting, tug-of-war, football, ‘bai choi’ (singing while acting as playing cards), ‘ba trao’, rod-pushing, and coracle racing, along with beach football and volleyball. There were also stalls introducing and selling local seafood products from the local fishermen.
Some important information
Apart from the worshipping ceremony, Cau Ngu is about vibrant traditional games which well presents culture in the central coast of Vietnam, including fish-catching, net-casting, and raw fish games. Music is also an indispensable part of the festival, with “Boi” singing is performed. The festival takes place on the 12th day of the first lunar month.
- Time: 12th day of 1st lunar month
- Purpose: venerate whales, pray for a wealthy and happy lif
- Rites: palanquin procession, praying and worshipping ceremonies
- Entertaining activities: traditional games and Boi singing
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