YBO - Xen Dong, or Forest Worshipping Festival is a unique tradition of Thai ethnic minority people in Hanh Son commune, Nghia Lo town, which has been preserved for generations.
Xen Dong Festival is traditionally held under a hundreds-year-old banyan tree with thoroughly-prepared rituals.
To Thai Muong Lo people, forest not only is home to holy spirits and gods but also brings many benefits to humans in many ways.
Thus, Thai people feel a strong sense of responsibility towards forest, laying basis for the development of customary rules for forest protection in their community.
The Xen Dong festival falls on the 12th day of the Lunar January. On the day, Thai people in Hanh Son commune are busy with making offerings to pay tribute to the God of Forest and their ancestors and pray for a new year of health and bumper crops.
The festival is traditionally held under a hundreds-year-old banyan tree with thoroughly-prepared rituals. Villagers slaughter a buffalo and take its head, tail, four legs and some meat, along with "banh chung” (square sticky rice cake), "banh day” (round cake made of sticky rice) and fruits to make three trays of offerings to the gods.
The local "thay mo” (shamans) performs a ritual to worship ancestors at the home of the person holding the highest position in the village to ask for the gods and ancestors’ blessing for luck and bumper crops in the new year.
The most important thing is to decorate the house of worship, which is believed to be the place the gods will rest. The house is decorated with colourful paper flowers to express people’s wishes for the new year. The red colour represents wealth and prosperity, blue symbolises peace and luck, while yellow is the symbol of success and happiness.
All villagers then go to nearby Vieng Cong village to practice a ritual at Vieng Cong ancient citadel which worships Cam Hanh, a local hero who led the fight against northern invaders in the 19th century.
Finally, "thay mo” (shamans) will perform a ritual to worship ancestors at the home of the person holding the highest position in the village to ask for the gods and ancestors’ blessing for luck and bumper crops in the new year./.
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