Nghinh ông Festival has become such a spectacular festival celebrated each year by Vietnamese dwellers living up and down this S-shaped country’s coastline. If you make a research for an idea of a Vietnam cultural tour, this one-of-a-kind aquatic event is held widely by fishermen in coastal cities such as Vũng Tàu, Khánh Hoà, Bình Thuận, Cà Mau, and Saigon. More than just a celebration, Nghinh Ông is seen as a ceremony dedicated to the largest animal in the Sea, whales. The event takes place as a showcase of Vietnamese long-lasting tradition in a combination of neighboring cultures.
When is Nghinh Ông celebrated?
The festival is held on different specific occasions in different cities given the same rituals attracting a huge number of visitors each time. In Vũng Tàu, Nghinh Ông Festival is found at Thắng Tam ancient temple on the 16th, 17th and 18th of Lunar August every year. In Cần Giờ District, Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City), fishermen tend to have their festival lasted from the 14th to 18th of Lunar August. Meanwhile, in Khánh Hoà Province, where the World’s favorite seashore, Nha Trang, is located, Nghinh Ông falls on the 15th of Lunar December. In Bình Thuận Province, King of the South Central seashores, the Chinese community decide to have Nghinh Ông Festival celebrated on the Full-moon date of Lunar July. Cà Mau, the ending city of the country, native fishermen and sailormen hold the event on three dates of the 14th, 15th and 16th of Lunar February.
Hundreds of visitors (Source: Google)
The story behind Nghinh Ông
Overall, the main intention of this unique maritime festival is to worship the whales, which are also referred to as Cá Ông, or the Giant Fish in the colloquial term. With a view to granting local fisherman and sailormen with safety, luck and prosperous crops, Nghinh Ông Festival was also honored by citizens of the Champa Kingdom, a long-lost mighty federation located in the Central land of Vietnam nowadays. Legend has it that whales are supposed to rescue any boats suffering in the far-away sea, especially during a storm when boats tend to get stuck and bring them back to the mainland. Despite any scientific fact revealed, the act of saving people of this giant sea mammal has been regarded as the presence of God, a common Asian belief whenever natural elements are involved.
An insight of a Nghinh Ông Festival in Vietnam
In a typical Nghinh Ông Festival, two main sections are supposed to be performed, which include Lễ (ceremony) and Hội (celebration).
A sedan chair is carried (Source: Google)
During the ceremony process, participants will be carrying a sedan chair, which contains a statue of the Southern Sea General, an official term given to the Whale God, crossing the crowd to the waterfront, where colorful dragon boats awaiting. Along the way, full of gaudy lanterns, flags and banners are displayed. Apart from that, visitors queue up to pray and hand offerings. When the captains on each boat are carrying their rituals, hundreds of locals at the back start drinking, eating roasted duck, chicken, pork and dance, and singing in aim of wishing good luck for the year ahead. After a little while, the fleets head back to shore and the festival ends. At the end of the ceremony, a ritual is then carried out in the mausoleum the general of the sea. Accordingly, solemn rituals are performed which is accompanied by traditional Vietnamese music.
A fleet is leaving offshore (Source: Google)
On the following days when the celebration section comes, various activities take place, the most essential part of which is the parade to the sea. During this two-day event, many traditional folklore games are played, which includes climbing the oil post and throwing balls, some traditional activities, duck and chicken hunting, boat racing and human chess. Afterward, winners would be rewarded. In the past, Nghinh Ông Festival was organized by the local fishermen themselves, yet nowadays, the event is officially run by the local government in each city. To most of the Vietnamese locals themselves, obtaining a chance to visit those coastal localities during the time the event takes place is such a memorable Vietnam cultural tour, especially a lesson of the country’s history is then given.
Boat racing (Source: Google)
If you are still figuring out which part of Vietnam should be considered for your next Vietnam cultural tour, then every single part of the country can meet your need. If your trip tends to fall on those mentioned dates above, do not hesitate to hit up with your nearest local tour operator and request a visit to those cities and contemplate the event with your own eyes.