New Year Fortune Praying Custom of Van Kieu, Pa Co Peoples

9:06:46 AM | 2/16/2015

On the first day of every New Year, Ho Hai Rieng, an elderly woman of Van Kieu ethnic group in Khe Da village, Lao Bao town, Huong Hoa district, Quang Tri province, wearing her best clothes and scarf, carries a basket on her back and leads her descendants to Lao Bao to pray for New Year fortune and luck.
Rieng, over 60, does not know the origin of this custom. She only remembers that she followed her parents to pray New Year fortune since her childhood. Her villagers visited all Kinh families in Lao Bao town to say nice words, wish for a better New Year and gain luck. The receive gifts, such as cake, fruit or candy, depending on the hosts. They asked for luck, not to ease their hunger, Rieng said. “All my villagers go to Lao Bao to beg for lucks. If the hosts do not have gifts, they are also very happy to drink just a cup of wine and go to other houses.”
On the first days of the New Year, the border town of Lao Bao is full of pilgrims begging for New Year fortunes. Nguyen Thi Kieu, who settled in Lao Bao town 40 years ago, was very surprised at this custom. When the New Year comes, her family always keeps the gate and doors open to welcome pilgrims, and prepares alms for them.
It is said that the “begging” practice rooted from the gratitude of delta people to the upland ones. After the country was reunified, many people moved from deltas to western Quang Tri to reside. When they came here, they were delivered six months worth of food. Many newcomers invited upland people to join their New Year celebrations. Gradually, this becomes a custom.
Ho Chu, researcher of ethnic cultures in Quang Tri province, said, “New Year begging is not a tradition of the Van Kieu and Pa Co peoples. Previously, Van Kieu and Pa Co peoples did not celebrate the New Year as the Kinh people and they only had New Rice Festival. When lowlanders went to the upland to earn a living, they brought the New Year celebration with them. The indigenous peoples saw that Kinh people did not work during the New Year while preparing a lot of foods, meat and cake for this occasion. Many indigenous residents came to Kinh families to be treated. Gradually, the New Year visit becomes a practice.”
Now, begging for alms still exists among Van Kieu and Pa Co people, although livelihoods have been much improved. Both beggars and givers are very honestly happy. The beggars get fortunes and the hosts receive nice New Year wishes in return.