Hoi Giong- Mythical memories and the love of the Vietnamese people
The Giong Festival, or “Hoi Giong” in Vietnamese, is a celebration that holds a special place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people. This festival, which takes place in various villages and communes in the Gia Lam and Soc Son districts of Hanoi, is steeped in myth and legend. It honors Saint Gióng, a mythical hero who is said to have protected Vietnam from foreign invaders with his superhuman strength and magical powers. The Giong Festival not only celebrates this legendary figure but also serves as a reminder of the resilience and bravery of the Vietnamese people throughout history. In this essay, we will delve deeper into the significance of the Gióng Festival and how it has come to symbolize the enduring spirit and cultural identity of Vietnam.
History and Origins of “Hoi Giong”
Hoi Giong (Giong Festival) is organized to commemorate and celebrate the glorious achievement of Saint Giong – Phu Dong Thien Vuong – one of the four immortal saints in Viet Nam’s folklore, who defeated the Ân invaders from the North and defended the nation of Van Lang, marking the beginning of the golden era of resisting foreign aggression since the reign of Hung Vuong VI.
Legend of Saint Giong
Legend has it that during the reign of Hung Vuong VI, there was an old couple in Giong village who lived a virtuous, diligent, and peaceful life. They longed for a child of their own. One day, the wife went to work in the field and saw a very large footstep, so she put her foot on it. Surprisingly, she became pregnant and gave birth to a handsome and strong boy after 12 months. However, even at the age of three, the boy still could not speak, only laughed.
At that time, the An invaders from the North flooded into the country of Van Lang. The king was worried and ordered his messengers to search everywhere for talented people to save the country. A little boy heard the news and suddenly spoke up, “Mother, please invite the messenger to come here to see me. ” When the messenger arrived, the boy said, “Tell the king to buy me an iron horse, an iron rod, and an iron armor. I will defeat these enemies.”
The messenger returned and relayed the message to the king, who then instructed someone to fulfill the boy’s requests. From that day on, the boy grew up quickly and became a giant man who could never get enough to eat. His family had to seek help and donations from the village. The boy suddenly transformed into a valiant warrior, and everyone called him Saint Giong. Giong mounted his iron horse and charged straight into the enemy, defeating them. When his iron rod broke, he grabbed a bamboo tree by the roadside and swung it at the enemy. The invaders were frightened and fled, and Giong chased them to Soc Son district (in Hanoi) before he flew up into the sky and disappeared.
Saint Giong is a sacred spirit of Viet Nam. People have established many Saint Giong temples to commemorate his great contribution to defeating the enemy and saving the country. Therefore, this festival is celebrated in many places, not just one.
Hoi Giong (Giong Festival) originated in the 11th century during the reign of King Ly Thai To (The Ly dynasty)
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The schedule of Hoi Giong (Giong Festival)
The Giong Festival at Soc Temple (Soc Son district) and Phu Dong Temple (Gia Lam district), are both located in Hanoi. There were recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2010. Hoi Giong takes place from the 6th to the 14th day of the 4th lunar month, with the main festival days being the 7th, 8th, and 9th days.
The Water Procession is a ritual of fetching water from the well in the Mau Temple. This water is used to wash the weapons.
The Flag Procession brings the banner to be placed in front of the Mau Temple, and there is also a funeral procession from the Mau Temple to the Thuong. Temple to pay tribute to the Saints through the singing of the Ai Lao district. Next is the Inspection Procession, which is a reconnaissance of the route to the battlefield.
The Saint Worship Ceremony is held, followed by the opening of the temple for the public to worship the Saints.
The Van Lang army gathers at the Thuong Temple for the worship ceremony, accompanied by the singing and dancing of the Ai Lao district to pay homage to the gods. The reenactment of the legend of Saint Giong defeating the An invaders is performed through flag-waving performances and wrestling competitions.
The Inspection Procession is held to check the troops and weapons and to worship Saint Giong, followed by a feast for the knights at the Thuong Temple. The enemy general surrenders and offers tribute during the feast.
The Cleansing Ritual is held, followed by water-fetching to wash the weapons. Games and competitions take place throughout the area. These include wrestling and performances in front of the Thuong Temple to praise the Saints.
The Flag Planting Procession is held as the Van Lang army inspects the battlefield from Dong Dam to Soi Bia to see if any enemy soldiers remain. The planting of white flags along the road signifies the enemy’s complete surrender. In the morning, there is a singing competition to select the top four performers of the song “Lac Thanh,” celebrating victory and peace. In the afternoon, the festival ends with a ceremony announcing the victory to the heavens and earth.
The festival schedule follows tradition, but the Hoi Giong festival may be shortened, with activities concentrated in fewer days. However, the reenactment of Saint Giong’s victory over the An invaders always takes place on the main festival day, April 9th.
Note when attending the “Hoi Giong”
If you are planning to attend the “Hoi Giong” festival as a tourist, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Check the festival dates:
The Giong Festival is typically held in late April or early May, but the exact dates may vary from year to year. Be sure to check the festival schedule in advance so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
- Dress appropriately:
A festival is a traditional event, so it is important to dress modestly and respectfully. Avoid wearing revealing or inappropriate clothing. Consider wearing comfortable shoes since you may be walking and standing for long periods.
- Respect local customs:
Different regions may have different customs and traditions associated with the festival. Be respectful of local customs and follow the lead of locals when participating in ceremonies or other activities.
- Be prepared for crowds:
The festival can be very crowded, especially during peak times. Be prepared to wait in lines and navigate through large crowds, and consider arriving early to secure a good spot.
- Bring cash:
Many vendors and food stalls at the festival may only accept cash. Therefore, it is recommended to bring enough money for food, drinks, and souvenirs.
- Be aware of your surroundings:
With large crowds and bustling activity, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings. Keep your belongings close to you at all times.
Overall, the Giong Festival is a vibrant and exciting celebration of Vietnamese culture and tradition. With a little preparation and awareness, it can be a truly unforgettable experience for visitors.
If you have the opportunity, please attend the Hoi Giong. It is a unique cultural experience and a chance to witness traditional Vietnamese folk art and rituals. The festival also offers a glimpse into the history and mythology of Vietnam, particularly the legend of Saint Giong. Overall, it is an excellent opportunity to learn about and appreciate Vietnamese culture.