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Preserving cultural beauty of folk festivals in Ba Ria- Vung Tau

The southern coastal province of Ba Ria –Vung Tau is home to many unique folklore festivals, imbued with the culture, customs and beliefs of the people in the region.

According to the Department of Culture and Sports of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, the province has a diverse system of historical and cultural relics, along with 12 traditional festivals. Some typical festivals are the death anniversary of Lady Phi Yen (a concubine of Lord Nguyen Anh), the death anniversary of National Hero Tran Hung Dao, Nghinh Ong Festival at Thang Tam Communal House, Ba Ngu Hanh Temple Festival, Trung Cuu Festival, Dinh Co Festival, and Saint Tran's death anniversary-Long Son Great House.

Traditional festivals in Ba Ria-Vung Tau bear the influence of the traditional culture of all three regions of the North-Central-South and have become an indispensable part of the community's cultural life here.

Recently, the commemoration of the death anniversary of Lady Phi Yen in Con Dao district has become the first Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ba Ria-Vung Tau to be included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

On the 17th and 18th days of the 10th lunar month every year, the commemoration of Lady Phi Yen's death anniversary is held at Lady Phi Yen Temple, also known as An Son Temple - a famous spiritual tourist destination in Con Dao, honouring her virtues and chastity.

According to Vice Chairman of the People's Committee of Con Dao District, Nguyen Thuy Nga, the festival - death anniversary of Lady Phi Yen have special meaning in the spiritual culture of many people in the sacred land of Con Dao.

During the festival, many solemn activities are held such as the procession of Hoi An Prince - the son of Lady Phi Yen, the worshiping ritual on the main day to express the people’s respect for her and pray for peace of the country, safety of the people, favourable weather, and happy families.

The festival part has many activities such as: displaying fruit trays, flower arranging contests, folk games, calligraphy writing, performances of Don Ca Tai Tu, attracting the attention of both local residents in the island district and tourists coming to Con Dao on the festival occasion.

Besides the Festival - death anniversary of Lady Phi Yen which has been recognized as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province has made scientific dossiers for some local Intangible Cultural Heritages – the Nghinh Ong Festival at Thang Tam communal house (Vung Tau city) and Dinh Co Festival (Long Dien district), to submit to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism seeking recognition of them as national intangible cultural heritages.

Nghinh Ong festival at Thang Tam communal house, Vung Tau city, has been maintained by generations of fishermen and Vung Tau community for more than 100 years, with many rituals bearing typical coastal cultural characteristics.

Taking place from the 16th to 18th days in the 8th lunar month every year, Nghinh Ong festival consists of two parts: ceremonial and festive activities. The ceremonial part includes procession, rituals for worshiping gods and offering sacrifices. The festive part features many folk games recreating fishermen's activities such as fishing contest, net weaving, tug of war, checkered chess competition on sand, which are imbued with the culture of coastal inhabitants.

Dinh Co Festival (in Long Hai town, Long Dien district) is held on the 10th and 12th days of the second lunar month every year.

According to legend, about 200 years ago, a girl on her way through the waters here encountered a storm, fell into the sea and died. Her body drifted to Hon Hang. People in the area buried her and set up a temple near the sea. Since then, she was said to frequently make epiphany, appear in dreams to give warnings, and help quell epidemics. 

Fishermen in the area honored her as "Long Hai Than Nu Bao An Chanh Truc Nuong Nuong Chi Than”. Her temple was later moved to the foot of Ky Van mountain, which is Dinh Co relic today.

Many researchers believe that the Dinh Co Festival in Long Hai town is part of the festival system of the worship of Mother-Goddess. But the festival here is not merely the worship of Mother-Goddess. It is a combination of the fishing festival with the custom of worshiping the sea god and local residents' belief in the Mother-Goddess, creating a very unique characteristic for the festival.

Promoting heritage values
Leaders of Ba Ria-Vung Tau provincial Party Committee have defined the task of identifying heritage values and preserving and promoting the value of local relics and heritages. Traditional festivals imbued with traditional cultural imprints of local coastal communities have been maintained and developed into cultural and tourist events, attracting a large number of tourists annually.

The province has developed programmes and plans to implement resolutions related to the development of an advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national cultural identity.

Recently, the People's Committee of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province has issued a plan to implement the cultural development strategy in the province to 2030.

The province has submitted to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism a proposal on including a number of festivals such as Nghinh Ong Festival in Thang Tam communal house, and Dinh Co festival, in the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Researchers and experts affirmed that traditional festivals have reflected the typical cultural activities of the community and this is also an opportunity to attract tourists from all over the world to the locality./.