Wedding of Ko Ho Minority Ethnic People
June 13rd 2010.
The main ethnic minority groups in Lam Dong Province are Kơ Ho, Ma and Churu. According to current statistics, Kơ Ho is the largest group (112,737 people); Ma group is the next (25,237 people) and Churu (14,579 people) is the third. In Lam Dong, minority groups in general, the Kơ Ho people in particular, still keep their traditional culture in their daily lifestyle as well as their rituals in marriage.
“Cultural interference” among communities
Because 42 minority groups live close together (in 10 districts and two cities in Lam Dong), they can maintain their culture in daily life. As traditional customs become outdated, they are replaced by new and modern ones.
The Kơ Ho groups including Sre, Cill, Lach, Nop, String and K’don mainly settled in Di Linh, Duc Trong, Lac Duong, Lam Ha, Dam Rong districts. Thanks to interest and investment of the Government’s Resolution 30A to reduce poverty as well as to promote living standards for ethnic minority groups, a “new wing” of modern life has made a big change in their lifestyle.
Besides external influence, cultural exchanging of Kinh people also makes spiritual life of minority groups in Lam Dong become active. However, a new lifestyle also makes youth “forget” their traditional culture. The local cultural department has tried their best to preserve as well as restore traditional festivals of minority communities, such as opening courses for playing gong, traditional instruments; organizing “The cultural day of minority groups”, “The provincial gong festival” every year, 等等. In addition, ethnic minority people themselves, including Kơ Ho, need to preserve their traditional lifestyle in the trend of modern life. Let’s learn about a traditional wedding of Kơ Ho people.
Past and present wedding of Kơ Ho people
A traditional wedding of Kơ Ho people includes three main ceremonies:
Dam hoi (asking for permission)): Kơ Ho is a matriarchal ethnic group, so their wedding celebration is against Kinh people; it means that the girl’s family comes to the man’s house asking for a husband for their daughter. There are two cases that will happen in “dam hoi” ceremony: First of all, if the man and girl fall in love, they will ask permission to get married; if the family of the man does not agree, they will ask for a lot of valuable gifts (for both of them can not get married). If the man and girl have not met yet, but the two families both agree to have a wedding, the girl’s family must try to persuade the groom many times. If the man still does not agree, the girl’s parents have to apologize and compensate the man’s family with gifts such as a pig. If the couple cannot have a wedding, the girl’s family should honor the reputation of the man’s family, by offering a gift such as a buffalo.
Dam hoi (pre-wedding ceremony): After the two families and couple agree for on a wedding, the man’s family will “ask for gifts” (in the past, gifts were buffalo, goats, clothing, bracelets, 等等. At present, gifts are always gold, money, 等等). The girl’s family can present all gifts at once, if they are wealthy. If not, they can present several times over several years. The girl’s family may also ask to reduce the number of gifts. For a poor family, wedding gifts sometimes are “a big loan” for the couple to handle after the wedding. Therefore, after “dam hoi” ceremony, some Kơ Ho couples have not celebrated a wedding ceremony for themselves until their children grow up.
Wedding ceremony: There are two ceremonies in a wedding day. One is celebrated at the groom’s house. The other is celebrated at the bride’s house (“dua re” or groom taking ceremony). They will play gong and sing traditional songs during the wedding party. Happy money will be shared with all members of the groom’s family (sum of money based on position of family) and his parents. In Kơ Ho wedding, the groom’s family will be the receiver (receiving money and taking part in party); bride’s family is the giver (presenting money and “contributing” rice, chicken, pig, goat, etc.). In Kơ Ho family, the woman is the most important person. In Kơ Ho concept, “daughter is grain, son is just rice”. Children in the family will be named by their mother’s surname (matriarchy); having a daughter is better than son because a girl has the right “to catch a husband” when growing up and deciding her future.
Currently, with the impact of modern life, awareness of ethnic minority groups has positively changed so that most outdated wedding ceremonies of Kơ Ho have been reduced and eliminated. However, the preservation and promotion of the traditional value of weddings as well as other ceremonies of minority communities is always necessary to preserve their beautiful cultures in Lam Dong Province. Hopefully, the youth will give a hand to preserve the beauty of traditional culture of their homeland Dalat – 林董.
By Thanh Duong Hong