Village Sweeping Festival – Must-experience in Sapa Group Tours
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Sapa is home to many different ethnic groups, who live ingenuously amidst the soaring mountains of the Northwest. Each group has its distinctive culture with several featured festivals. If you take Sapa group tours in the 2nd lunar month (around March – April of the western calendar), do not forget to attend “Le Quet Lang” – the unique village sweeping festival of the ethnic Xa Pho people in Sapa.
Xa Pho, also known as Phu La, is a minor ethnic group in Northwest Vietnam, which has the population of only around 4,000 people in total. Living in remote areas, where it is quite difficult to commute, Xa Pho people rarely connect to people of other groups. Xa Pho people speak Mandarin Chinese, some people can also use Tibeto-Burman languages as their mother tongues. Although they could not gather to form a large and strong community, these ethnic people still well preserve their long tradition. The Village Sweeping Festival is one of the most important occasions in the year of these ingenious people.
The locals believe that the 2nd lunar month is when the hungry ghosts and spirits wander around the village to seek foods and do harm to the villagers; therefore, they organize the village sweeping festival to get rid of the bad luck and pray for a peaceful year and an abundant harvest. This is a really important and interesting festival that travelers should never miss exploring in your Sapa culture tour.
Legend has it that in the past, the villagers used to be harassed by the wandering ghosts. People got seriously sick but found no way to treat while their life became more and more difficult due to the loss of the crops. Then there happened to appear a man who claimed to be the son of the god came here to help. He assisted the locals to make sacrifices to dispel the bad luck and devils. Miraculously, the villagers turned healthy. From then on, the villagers decide to take the 2nd day of the 2nd lunar month to hold the village sweeping festival, and the festival represents the wish of the locals for a healthy, happy, and prosperous year.
Preparation for the festival
Prior to the sacrifice, the villagers would hold a meeting to plan a perfect festival. The attendants are the breadwinner of each family. They gather in the house of the oldest man in the village to discuss the festival.
Importantly, attendants do not come to the meeting with bare hands. They need to bring along some items like rice, chickens, incenses, money, and wine. Some people also bring along dogs or pigs to do the sacrifices. Preparation is nothing less significant than the celebration, so do not miss it! Schedule your Sapa tour carefully to be able to observe all the processes.
This fancy festival is undoubtedly a should-experience thing in your Sapa group tours. On the festival day, all the sacrifices will be brought to the venue where the festival occurs. The strong men will be in charge of killing these animals. The shamans, whose faces are purposively smeared, will hold the wooden sword and a leaf to come to each house to do the sweeping rituals.
The shaman will pour the wine into the family altars, mumble all the names of the family members, then draw the sword throughout the house. A family member will follow him and throw the corn over his head.
When the ritual is over, the sacrifices will be displayed to offer to the ghosts and devils. After having the meal, the ghosts will leave and stop doing harm to the locals. When everything has been done, the whole village will have a big party together.
Everyone needs to eat all the foods and sacrifices and not bring it home to prevent the ghosts from coming back to the village. To end the festival, the shaman will burn a fire and walk through it. The local will not allow strangers to enter the village in 3 days to avoid the evils. So, remember to arrive on time to take a Sapa day tour during this festival, as you will not be able to penetrate the village right after the event ends.
Simple as the Village Sweeping Festival might seem, it demonstrates a valuable spiritual norm of Xa Pho people. This festival will be absolutely suitable for those loving to get to know more about the local culture and tradition of the people in Sapa.