Special Traditional cultural of Xa Pho ethnic in lunar new year

If you travel to Sapa during the festival time, you will have a chance to learn more detailed information about ethnic minorities in Sapa. Xa Pho is one of them and they have their own traditional culture in the lunar new year named “Ả nệ ghỉ bá” which means “Village sweeping ritual”.

The Xa Pho ethnic people are a group and branch of the Phu La ethnic group. Xa Pho people reside from the Muong Hoa valleys of Sa Pa town to the upper reaches of the Chay River in the east of Lao Cai province. The communal spirit of the Xa Pho people is very high, each village has its self-governing community, run by a Council of Elders representing the clans in the village.

The time of Xa Pho “Village sweeping ritual” in Sapa is held on the second day of February from the lunar calendar.

The story begins a long time ago when the demons appeared and ravaged the lives of the Xa Pho people making them extremely difficult and lacking, children to the older get sick and cannot be cured, damming the crops. Suddenly On the 2nd day of the 2nd lunar month, a fairy appeared to help Xa Pho people cure demons and bring peace. From that, they take a beautiful day in February to hold a village sweeping ceremony to both chase away evil spirits and pray for luck and good things in the new year.

Before the festival, representatives of families in the village gathered at the village chief’s house to present the work and agreed to choose people to help the shaman perform the ritual, location, time as well as organizational content, and choose the one to do it.

To prepare for the Village Sweeping Ceremony, men in the family of Xa Pho people must weave small plates from the bamboo tree in the forest to use as “weapons” to ward off evil spirits after the ceremony.

During the ceremony day, the men representing the families brought offerings to the chosen vacant lot at the beginning of the village. According to the division, strong, agile men worked together to slaughter pigs, chickens, goats, and dogs. The Shaman holds a wooden sword and a small tree branch, his face smeared with dirt and enters each house to perform the ceremony for the whole village. At every house he entered, he poured a cup of wine and placed it on the family altar, reading the names of all family members.

After reading, the priest dances the wooden sword everywhere in the house. The family sends a person behind to hold the corn, cut off the kernels, and throw it over the priest’s head. Therefore, everyone brings blankets and mats to the beginning of the village and shakes them into a symbolic bamboo raft with the idea that all the bad luck of the year will flow away with the water.

After the festival, local people and guests eat together in the village. All food offered to ghosts must be eaten completely, and leftovers cannot be brought back to the village. After eating and drinking, the Shaman stays behind, takes bamboo branches and sticks them around the ground, then takes the dog’s tail and ears and sticks them in the ground to prevent ghosts from entering the village to harm people. He lit a fire and walked over, then went home. Starting from that day, the village will be banned for 3 days, strangers will not be allowed to enter the house or the village. After 3 days, all activities returned to normal.

Thankful to its unique characteristics, the Xa Pho people’s “Village sweeping ritual” is indeed one of the featured festivals of ethnic minorities in Sapa you should join.

Ba Hien

About the Author Sapa Tourism Office

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