Gau Tao ritual of H’Mong people in Ha Giang, Vietnam
Gau Tao is one of the most important festivals of H’Mong people. The festival takes place from the first day to the full moon day in January for the purpose of blessing. If the festival is held for three consecutive years, each year is held 3 days, and the combinational festival will be held in 9 days. Gau Tao is the largest, most crowded and most celebrated rituals of H’Mong people.
Gau Tao means ritual, is a sacrifice of heaven and earth, gods, the landlord has blessed for the owner and children. This is also a chance for people to meet each other, have fun, sing love songs and dance together.
This is a religious activity consisting of two parts that are ceremony and festival. The ceremony has rituals showing the cultural identity of the H’Mong. The ceremony begins with the preparation of worship offerings such as pigs, paper money, corn, rice, sticky rice, alcohol… In addition, the most noticeable in the festival is the Lunar New Year Pole ceremony. At the construction site, it also set up two large wooden stakes with a beam to hang the bunch of corn and rice that symbolizes the need for the full of the owner. The venue is chosen by the priest, usually in the hill or on high ground. The Lunar New Year is a tall bamboo tree with foliages decorated with colorful flags. When the tree is finished, the owner and the worshiper will make offerings at the foot of the tree and invite the ancestors and gods to attend. Content of the vows of the worshipers expressed the wishes of the owner of peace, wealth, children, health, good business continuity.
During the Gau Tao ritual, the ceremony is solemn, but the festival is clearly the exciting atmosphere. It is usually held on a relatively flat ground or on slopes, with natural scenery favorable for the spring tour of people. Homeowners will sing songs praising the village and bless people on the occasion of the New Year. Boys and girl blew trumpets, danced and invited each other the corn wine. This is also the time when boys and girls organize traditional games to create a joyful and exciting atmosphere of highland festival day.
The fun is ended, the worshiper on behalf of the family gave thanksgiving for ancestors, heaven and earth and asked for letting down the tree, burning the paper, bringing the wine bottle to tie on the top of the tree to pour in all directions of the mountain. Gau Tao Festival is a beautiful traditional cultural characteristic of the H’Mong people in Ha Giang in particular and the Northwest highland tourism in general.