Living Viet

Ancestor revering ceremony of the Ha Nhi

Revering the dead in springtime features a beautiful cultural trait of the Ha Nhi, an ethnic group in Y Ty commune, Bat Xat district, Lao Cai.
Three years after the death of a person, family members visit and clean up his/her grave, and prepare offerings for an outdoor ceremony to escort his/her spirit back home for veneration.

This is one of the oldest customs of the Ha Nhi which is held in springtime.

The Ha Nhi have a high sense of community spirit. In an ancestor worship ceremony, villagers contribute offerings to their ancestors. Photo: Tran Hieu / VNP

Paper birds, boats and flowers convey the Ha Nhi’s prayers to their ancestors. Photo: Tran Hieu / VNP

Before the ritual, the host family prepares materials for making the offerings which include a rooster, sticky rice, boiled eggs, joss paper and incense. The family then invites all villagers to this ceremony.

The village will sacrifice a pig and offer its head and tail to the deceased. The other parts of the pig are cooked into traditional dishes for a feast after the ceremony.

In the early morning, the host family erects a new year’s tree (cay neu) on the grave, on which is hung paper cranes and paper boats. 

Preparing lunch in the field. Photo: Tran Hieu / VNP

Having a big lunch together in the field. Photo: Tran Hieu / VNP

In the reverence ritual, all family members must wear Ha Nhi traditional costumes. Ha Nhi women wear their most beautiful clothing with hats, belts, bodice, and silver jewelry. On the terraced rice fields in Y Ty, Ha Nhi women look charming in their dark blue costumes with their thick hair beautifully coiled into a bun.

At the chosen time, a shaman recites prayers inviting the spirit of the deceased to return home and enjoy the offerings. After the prayer, the host family burns incense on the grave and other families follow suit. The offerings to the dead are then shared among the ritual participants at the grave site.

The Ha Nhi believe only after this ceremony when the grave of the deceased is renewed does he/she enjoy peace in the other world
By Tran Hieu

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