09:48 | 26/02/2019 Society
(VEN) - Vietnam and its people know how to throw a party. No fewer than 8,000 festivals are held in the first months of the lunar year throughout northern Vietnam, commemorating ancient heroes and showing respect to the gods while praying for good health, peace and prosperity.
In 2018, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism praised Hanoi for its effective management of the major festivals in its jurisdiction, and the city is determined that this year’s many events will also go smoothly. So far, their efforts have paid off as the festival season got under way this month.
The organization board of the Huong Pagoda Festival, for example, banned advertisement and sales of wild animals in the festival area and enforced food hygiene rules on those selling delicacies to festivalgoers. Hawkers were also banned from the inner areas of pagodas, from narrow roads and relic sites.
To Van Dong, director of the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports, said authorities would crack down on negative behavior, sale of illicit material and of publications not suited to the festivals’ habits and customs, gambling, and the use of ear-splitting loudspeakers. In addition, prices of services and goods are being monitored to prevent commercial fraud.
This festival season, the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports is also more proactive in controlling crowds and preventing fights as people scramble for lucky gifts and burn votive papers.
In 2015, one of the festivals turned into a stampede when people tried to snatch offerings from floats and from each other. In 2017, organizers had to deploy nearly 300 police officers and volunteers to guard the floats. Officials in Hanoi’s southernmost district of My Duc, home to the famous Huong Pagoda, have also asked the monks to stop handing out lucky tokens to pilgrims following a violent fight two years ago.
The Huong Pagoda Festival plays an important role in the spiritual life of Vietnamese people in general and Vietnamese Buddhists in particular. Huong Pagoda is located in My Duc District, 70km south of Hanoi.
The annual three-month festival, from the 6th day of the first lunar month to the end of the third month, is the longest and biggest Buddhist festival in the country, attracting millions of pilgrims and tourists each year.
Visitors to the Huong Son Landscape Complex and trek up mountains to visit ancient pagodas built into the limestone Huong Tich mountains. However, for years pilgrims suffered from unsanitary food and dirty worship sites. In 2018, organizers made serious efforts to clean up garbage, stop begging, and prevent motorboats ferrying the pilgrims from discharging oil into the river. For the convenience of festivalgoers, stalls and inns were listed along with full contact numbers and specific price lists. Sales of wild meat were also banned, and sanitation facilities were cleaned.
Another major spring event is the Saint Giong Festival commemorating the mythical hero Saint Giong, known as one of the four immortals in Vietnamese folk belief for defending the country from foreign enemies. The processions take part on the 6th-8th days of the first lunar month at Soc Temple, where he is said to have risen to heaven, and on the 8th-9th days of the fourth lunar month at Phu Dong Temple, where the saint was born. There are also dozens of troop parades, thanksgiving processions and artistic performances. UNESCO has recognized the festivals in both temples of Hanoi’s Phu Dong Village as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind.
Hanoi’s culture and sports sector will continue to check and strictly handle violations to drive towards a civilized and
safe festive season, while preserving traditional values.