Khau Vai commune, located in Meo Vac district, the northernmost province of Ha Giang, is home to ethnic minority groups of Giay, Nung and Muong. Khau Vai is famous for the love market festival which is held on lunar March 26th and 27th with the participation of a large number of locals. The festival features food and drink culture, song performances and folk games. Ethnic costumes, jewelry, ethnic musical instruments, culture and art publications are on display at the market, reflecting activities of the local people.
The primary Khau Vai Love Market
It can be said that the beauty and power of love is the basic factor to maintain the existence of Khau Vai love market for such a long time. In the market area, there are two temples called Ong and Ba (Mr and Mrs) temples. The story concerning these temples tells that, once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl born from two different places of the Dong Van Plateau. Since forbidden to get married by the two families, they, side by side, decided to leave home to come and settle down together in Khau Vai, a prosperous land with green plants. In honor of their merits in cultivating the wild land into a rich land, the local people built the two temples to worship them.
Another local myth tells the story of a young couple from different tribes who fell in love with each other. The girls belonged to the Giay group and the boy to the Nung group. The girl was so beautiful that her tribe did not want to let her get married with any man from other tribes. Consequently, violent conflict arose between the two tribes. To stop the blood shedding, the two lovers sorrowfully decided to part. However, they planned to meet once a year on that day, lunar March 27th. The place where they used to meet is Khau Vai, which thereafter became a meeting place for all those in love.
Since then, on every lunar March 27th, Khau Vai has attracted couples of different ages, including those who seek partners for the first time. Yet, most of them are those who love each other very much but cannot marry because of different reasons. On the day when the market session takes place, it is likely that both the wife and her husband together go to the market but they look for their own partners to share emotions. If one of them has to stay at home, he or she is not jealous because the dating at the marketplace is only a temporary feeling exchange, which has no negative influences on real life.
The first day of the market session is for the ceremony to turn into the new calendar period. On this day, at a selected hour, people take a bath and put on their best clothes in anticipation of the New Year. They bring incense, lamps, flowers and fruits to a pagoda where they join the great calendar-receiving ceremony. Then the official ceremony is carried out inside the sanctuary. After that, every participant prays to the Buddha and chant prayers for a happy new year. Young persons walk out to the pagoda yard and join in fun activities till late at night.
The second day is for the ceremony to offer boiled rice and heap up a sandy mountain. Every Khmer family cooks rice and offers it to Buddhist monks at the pagoda in early morning and at noon. In the afternoon, people start to heap up a sandy mountain for seeking happiness and luck. They make small mountains in eight directions and one in the middle reflects the universe. This custom originates from an age-old legend. It displays people’s aspirations for rain.
On the third day of the market, there comes the ceremony to wash the Buddha’s statue and Buddhist monks. In the afternoon, they burn incense, offer sacrifices and use scented water to wash the statue in order to pay tribute and gratitude to the Buddha. This is also to get rid of the old year’s misfortunes and wish all the best for the New Year. After that, people return to their house and wash the Buddha’s statue at home. They offer dishes, confectionery and fruits to ask for happiness for their parents and grandparents and being forgiven for their mistakes made in the previous year.
With the assistance of Ha Giang Culture and Information Department, Meo Vac district and Khau Vai commune authorities hold the traditional love market of Khau Vai frequently for the purpose of promoting the cultural identity of ethnic minority groups in the locality. If you have time and condition or you are interested in Vietnamese ethnic culture, do not hesitate to arrange a trip to Khau Vai – Ha Giang to experience the unique atmosphere here, it would be extremely memorable!