Every year, when come spring and Tet holiday, if you go on excursion tour to highlands and Northern mountainous provinces, you will be glad to see blooming peach trees and plum and to discover the mysteries in the Mong minority’s customs and habits, to welcome New Year that is usually celebrated in early January in lunar calendar.
The Tet holidays last 12 days with many community activities, and most typically is Gau Tao festival, one of two important events in a year to pray for good health, happiness, and lucky children.
Normally, Gau tao festival is organized in 3 consecutive years and each lasts 3-5 days. If it’s for one only year, it lasts 10-12 days. Right from the 25th – 26th of lunar December, village boys have to fetch a good bamboo plant for New year tree that is put on a hill slop or in the middle of a large ground.
On top of the tree, a pot of alcohol, piece of red cloth is fastened as if to make an eport to the local God, it means the Gau Tao ready. Gau tao may be held in a family or group of families, but it is commonly participated.
On the 30 th of December (The last day of old year), the house owner prepare worship offerings: pork, square cake, round cake, rice, alcohol, rice paper…and the shaman is ready for worshipping by the new year tree to pray for happiness, prosperity, bumper crops…From 3rd -5 th of lunar January, a lucky house is decided both by shaman and house owner for the festival.
Then, after a few words of opening, young girls and boys, dressed in new and colorful costumes, necklaces and bracelets begin singing the songs in praise of the village and their love songs. After that, hundreds of people go scattering to the fields, to the hill for fun.
They blow bamboo flute, leaf -flutes, and play games: spinning and, sticking…that make things more merry and exciting. Young boys, dressed in indigo costumes, hand in hand with young girls, dressed in colourful start their singing contest and exchange heart to heart talk in love promise while guests and visitors are entertained by house owner with food and drinks.
The festival is over, the shaman on behalf of the house owner, expresses gratitude to the Earth, Heaven, and Gods, then get off the new year tree, burn the worship- paper and spray the alcohol round.
The piece of red cloth is taken off and tied to the house door, meaning to be protected by God. A pair of a boy and a girl or newly web couple ( good and happy one) is asked to make a bamboo mat from the tree( wishing to have good children and prevent the evils).
Gau Tao has become the village and community festival in happy and merry atmosphere. This age -old custom has attracted more and more visitors to the region.