Each ethnic group in Vietnam has unique ways of celebrating Tet. The Tay people of Cao Bang and Lang Son Provinces have a special Tet game that not only ushers in the spring but also serves as a matchmaker.
According to Tay legend, Pia, an orphan, war poor
and lonely. Discouraged with life, he went to the forest and gathered
pieces of fruit to throw around. One time, he threw a fruit so hard it
flew straight to heaven, where a fairy caught it. The fairy flew down
to the earth to play with Pia. Before long, they fell in love and
became husband and wife.
The people of the mountain village
believed that the fruit had brought Pia happiness. To celebrate this
story, young men and women toss balls (nem con) each year from the
third day of Tet until the end of the first lunar month.
gather on a level field where villagers have planted a tall bamboo
tree. A bamboo ring about 30-40 cm in diameter hangs from the tree.
Gaudy fabric covers the balls, which the makers have stuffed with rice
grains (representing food) and cotton seeds (clothing) along with their
hidden desires. A multicoloured tassel decorates the balls.
to tradition, before playing, the Tay people first prepare a tray of
food, which they take to the field and offer to the Sky and Earth. Two
balls and a bamboo ring on the tray represent vitality and virtue. The
festival leader, who must have high status, prays to the Sky and Earth
lo brings rain so that the community will have a good harvest. After
this ceremony, the leader tosses the two balls high into the air.
Everyone competes to catch them, signaling the beginning of festivities.
that point, each family may throw its own household ball through the
bamboo ring for good luck. Naturally, some balls do not make it through
on the first try. The owners may try over and over until they are
The festival leader closes with a prayer for a good
planting season, then slashes the ball open and distributes seeds to
everyone. These seeds bring good luck and will sprout quickly because
they unite the forces of am and duong (yin and yang) in the warmth of
women's and men's hands. Everyone receives the holy seeds of the Sky,
the Earth and Humanity with the belief and hope that their crops will
increase, people will prosper and the entire village will have
sufficient food, clothing and happiness. For this reason, the ball game
is a major feature of Tay tradition.