Gau Tao is the largest as well as the most important celebration of the Hmong ethnic group in Sapa Town. The following information will show you how to have the most interesting Sapa trekking tour in your life.
When does Gau Tao Festival occur?
A contest gau tao festival
If you want to spend your Sapa tour participating in this festival, you need to keep track of the Lunar Calendar. Gau Tao is usually organized from the first day to the 15th day of the first month.
In some areas, it is held in three continuous years. And each year, the celebration lasts for three days. However, in several other areas, it only happens in a year so the citizens will let it remain in 9 days. Although the government has succeeded in restoring Gau Tao in some towns of Lao Cai Province, Sapa is the most eventful place.
Therefore, before booking your flight ticket, remember to check whether it is the year that the festival is organized. Early this 2018, Gau Tao was already arranged so it would probably be held again next year.
The meaning of the festival
Taking part in the celebration is just like having a Sapa culture tour. You will have a chance to see a lot of significant cultural traits and traditions of Hmong people.
In their language, Gau Tao means “a place for hangout.” But its purpose is completely irrelevant to its name. According to legends, when Hmong couples who got married for a long time wanted to have a kid, the husband would climb on some hill and plead with the Mountain God.
After that, if the wife got pregnant and gave birth to the child that they had always desired, they would organize the Gau Tao Festival to show their gratitude towards the God. For this reason, the celebration used to be arranged only within a family. And perhaps, the name Gau Tao, in that case, means “the place for Gods to hang out”.
Afterward, the festival received attention from local authorities and was expanded to a whole community. Hence, it was held more often and on a larger scale. Nowadays, besides the purpose of imploring for a child, Gau Tao is an occasion for the Hmong people to pray for health, fortune, good crops, and prosperity.
What activities can you join in?
The festival has two main parts, one of which is the rituals and the other is the celebration.
The rituals usually begin with setting up Cay Neu (a Lunar New Year Pole) one day before the festival. As the host, the family who would like to plead for a child will do this. Cay Neu will give the signal for the villagers to come and join in the festival.
Moreover, it is considered the bridge that brings the wish of the participants as well as the childless couple to the Mountain God. Thus, Cay Neu always has to be carefully set up and point to the East, symbolizing the growth of all things in the world. On the day of the festival, the host will prepare the gifts to the God, let the shaman read their wishes, and invite the villagers to enjoy the festival.
The last part of Gau Tao, which is the one that most Vietnam travel agencies recommend tourists to take part in, is the celebration. You will find a great number of exclusive cultural activities in this part, such as syrinx dancing, singing love duets, Senh Tien dancing, or crossbow-shooting contest. These are opportunities for boys to show their talents to the girls that they have fallen in love with.
When the night comes, it is the time for the boys to express their feelings through the sound of bamboo flutes and dan moi (a type of flute of ethnic minorities). Especially, everyone will have their chance to find a lover when joining in the festival even if they are already married. At the end of the celebration part, those who win contests will be offered a drink by the host.
And all participants will give their prayers to the songs as well as the last drink and silently promise that they will see one another at the festival next year.
Some tips to have the best Sapa trekking tour
- The most ideal place for you to participate in the festival is Cat Cat Village. The ground is that most Hmong people in Sapa Town live there.
- You should stay in homestays or the locals’ houses instead of hotels in order to easily enjoy the festival.