Spring festivals of chivalry in Northen Vietnam

In Vietnam, festivals are often organized in spring, when there is perfect harmony between sky, nature and people. In many festivals, there are ceremonies and activities with a sporting spirit such as wrestling, mud festivals and ball snatching festivals. Following are 6 spring festivals in Northern Vietnam with a sporting spirit, captured by Le Bich over the years.

1. Thuy Linh Festival

Location: Thuy Linh village, Linh Nam ward, Hoang Mai, Hanoi

Time: January, 4th, 5th and 6th lunar month

In early spring, the wrestling festival of Thuy Linh village is held in a large yard by the communal house which worships deity Linh Lang, the fourth son of King Ly Thanh Tong. The festival is to commemorate the training methods of  Linh Lang. This sport aims to work your mind and body as well as manifest cooperation, plans and strategy. In the past, the festival was divided into hamlets of the village, along with doing shadow-boxing, fencing and lion dances. Both the young and elder take part in the festival.

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In the festival, four teams control four holes. After listening to the instructions of the referee, four teams will try to take the shuttlecock, which is made of jackfruit wood, to their hole. The team who can bring the shuttlecock back to their hole three consecutive times will be the winner. According to the custom, the champion team are not only respected but also wished good luck and happiness in the new year by local people.

2. Mai Dong Wrestling Festival

Location: Mai Dong, Hoang Mai, Hanoi

Time: January 4th, 5th and 6th lunar month

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The festival is organized to honor and commemorate Tam Trinh, an accomplished general of Hai Ba Trung. Wrestling is held before and after the procession of the village god with the participation of wrestlers from Bac Ninh, Tu Liem, Thanh Tri and other districts of Hanoi. From the 4th of January in the lunar month, the traditional wrestling festival will take place. As usual, teenagers compete and then wrestlers fight for second runner-up. In the afternoon of the 5th, they will compete for the first runner-up and the 6th for the champion. Mai Dong wrestling is not only a sport but also a traditional martial art to develop the spirit of chivalry and national union.

3. Ninh Hiep Wresting Festival

Location: Ninh Hiep commune, Gia Lam, Hanoi

Time: February 4th, 5th and 6th lunar month

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As usual, in February of the lunar month, the traditional Ninh Hiep wrestling festival is organized as part of the Nanh pagoda festival. The tradition of the Ninh Hiep wrestling championship has been handed down from generation to generation. At present, Ninh Hiep wrestling club is one of 18 members of Kinh Bac wrestling club. Particularly, Ninh Hiep wrestling arena always offers big prizes for winners.

4. Mud Festival in Van Village

Location: Yen Vien village, Van Ha commune, Viet Yen district, Bac Giang

Time: every two years on April 12th, 13th and 14th lunar month

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The Mud festival was revived in 2002 by Van village. According to the legend, the mud festival originated from the period of Ly Bon and Ly Bi, who expelled the Luong enemies out of the country (in the 4th and 5th century). This is connected with the legend of four brothers: Truong Hong, Truong Hach, Truong Lung and Truong Lay, who won against the devils in a shuttlecock competition in the marsh. The festival is held on a mud stage of about 200 square meters in front of the communal house, with two holes on both sides of the stage. 16 strong young men take part in the game. They are divided into four groups of four and these four groups are separated into two teams. Participants must be unmarried, strong and not in mourning. A board of coaches will train participants how to move, place their hands, sit and play shuttlecock. The mud festival of Van village is an extraordinary and meaningful cultural activity expressing the spirit of union and chivalry of local people.

5. Dong Ky Festival

Location: Dong Ky village, Dong Ky ward, Bac Ninh city, Bac Ninh province

Time: January 4th lunar month

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The most vivid part of Dong Ky festival is the procession of Ong Dam. Statues of Ong Dam are carried on the shoulders of young men to encourage the spirit of soldiers and say farewell to local people before going to battle.

6. Hien Quan Ball Snatching Festival

Location: Hien Quan commune (or Song Quan in the past), Tam Nong district, Phu Tho province

Time: January 13th lunar month

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The festival is to commemorate princess Thieu Hoa. In recent years, the festival has been organized on a larger scale. It was said that when King Hung came by this landscape, he bestowed the local people with balls for playing a game. He hung a circle on the high tree. Those who could throw the balls through the circle would get good luck in the new year. Since then, the festival has been passed down from generation to generation. This is considered as the biggest festival of this area.

Text and photos: Le Bich – Vntravellive