The Long tong festival, which means “crop praying” festival, is an important event to begin a new year. All young and old Tay, get dressed up and gather in the communal yard. Hoang Mi Lan, Chairman of Thanh Hoa commune, Yen Lang district, describes it: “At the Long tong festival, Tay people report their production results to the Agriculture Genie (Shen Nong) and ask him for good weather, fruitful trees, productive animals, and healthy people. The spring festival also helps foster unity and national patriotism.”
All households prepare offerings for the land, mountain, Shen Nong, and village genies. The offerings include steamed glutinous rice, rice wine, a boiled rooster, round and square glutinous rice cakes, and popcorn. The dishes expresses the gratitude of farmers to the Heaven God, the genies, and their ancestors for protecting them and giving them bumper crops and good health. Hoang Mi Lan again: “At the festival we choose a representative to plough the first furrow. He must be an excellent farmer whose fields have high productivity.”
After the first furrow ritual, all villagers join a Con throwing game. Young boys and girls throw the Con, a cloth ball with colorful laces, through a ring on top of the Neu tree, a high pole installed in the center of the yard. Villager Luong Quoc Trinh says:“Young Tay people eagerly anticipate the festival, where they can meet their partners. We wear traditional costumes, dance, sing, and talk with others. Married people can meet with their ex-lovers.”
The villagers cheerfully indulge themselves in games like walking on stilts, cock fighting, swinging, and tug-of-war. Mi Lan says a lion dance is indispensable at a Long tong festival. “A Long tong festival must have a lion dance. The lion represents supernatural power. The lion dance prays for good fortune, good health, the elimination of pestilent insects, the advent of bringing in good luck, and the chasing away of bad luck.”
Visitors to Lang Son province at the beginning the year can attend a Long tong festival in a Tay hamlet and get involved in their folk games. The beauty of villages hidden in the foothills, covered in mists, and the joyous Long tong festival will leave a deep impression on the visitors.