The New Rice Festival of the K’Ho People in Lam Dong

Like the oldest ethnic groups living in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, every year at around December (October lunar calendar) the K’Ho usually hold New Rice Festival. This is a major festival of the year and plays a very important part in the spiritual life of the K’Ho. 

The festival is held for divine thanksgiving purpose

When the crops have been harvested, and the paddy carried to the warehouse, it is the time for people in the tribes to organize the new rice festival. However, depending on the crop that year, which is a bumper or poor crop, they organize large or small festival. The festival takes place in 7 days but only 3 days are official and the remaining time is for preparation. Prior to the formal festival day, the village chief officially assigns the members of the village in groups to prepare items and offerings, food for the whole community during the festivities. Usually, healthy, skillful men and the youth are responsible for setting up and decorating the Pole (neu); the group of women prepare for Can ethnic wine, chicken, rice for cooking glutinous rice and make sticky rice cakes, wrap rolling tobacco the elderly are in charge of displaying offerings and sacrifices, costumes and items needed for the ceremony and checking preparation tasks. Everyone in the village joins to prepare the festival for 7 days. In addition to making a huge pole in the middle of the village, every household must raise a smaller pole made from the coral tree trunk in front of the house.

New Rice Festival of K'Ho people

New Rice Festival of K’Ho people

The ceremony takes place in every family and in the general location of the village (where the large pole is raised)

Before conducting the main rite people have to perform such rituals as: pole putting up to invite and welcome Yang (divine gods) to the Festival. In these rituals, besides such items as glutinous rice, sticky rice cakes, Can ethnic wine, people kill chicken and apply its blood to the Pole, pour Can ethnic wine onto the Pole, as a sign of offering food & drink to divine gods, benefiting from the success of crop harvesting of the previohilarious rhythms of the folk dance of the community.

Another separate ritual takes place in each household of the village. In front of the wall of the main wing of the house, below the altar, people usually decorate a set of Nhong- Oi and Jo rong- ko- lung with geometrical patterns painted in two dominant colors: red and black and the most beautiful brocades are hung with pictures of birds, dragonflies, frogs (those insects closely attached to crops) woven in bamboo material. Each family prepares chicken, cooks glutinous rice, processes Can ethnic wine… inviting people to celebrate and eat. When praying, the homeowner blows the horn in 3 long sounds then prays:

“Oh Yang, please bless us, last crop was good, so the next crop will be much better, we have better health, and our households are peaceful and safe”

Then the homeowner applies chicken blood, pours Can ethnic wine onto the altar, the gongs and jars hung on the walls of the house to invite Yang (divine gods). The guests are also applied chicken blood on the forehead by the homeowner, who uses chicken feather (animal sacrifice) to mark dots of blood and pray god to bestow them on health and every good thing.

People eat, beat gongs, blow the pan-pipe, dance, sing, discuss the work of next year crop, expecting future bumper crop.

By Doan Bich Ngo

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