Major spring festivals in Hanoi will skip the public parades of sacred offerings to prevent the chaos that has ensued in previous years, officials have said.
The Lunar New Year falls in mid-February and will be accompanied by thousands of festivals, most of which were created centuries ago to commemorate ancient war heroes and show respect to the gods while praying for good health, peace and prosperity – all honorable causes.
Officials in charge of organizing these festivals in Hanoi said they will make sure that these traditions are preserved while preventing the ugly and sometimes violent sides.
Le Huu Manh, chief organizer of the Saint Giong Festival in Soc Son District to the city’s northeast, said this will not involve parades of sacred offerings between temples.
In 2015, the festival turned into a stampede when people tried to snatch the offerings from the floats and from each other. In 2017, the organizers had to deploy nearly 300 police officers and volunteers to guard the floats.
“Having to resort to a such strong security force ruined the holy spirit of the festival,” Manh said.
He said that this year the organizers have decided to transform the event in the hope of changing festival goers’ behavior.
The Giong Festival is held on the sixth day of the new lunar year (February 21 this year) to commemorate a mythical folk hero, a boy who grew into a giant and rode an iron horse to defeat Chinese invaders during the 13th century BC using bamboo, hence the decorative bamboo sticks used as offerings during the festival.
Officials in Hanoi’s southernmost district of My Duc, home to the famous Perfume Pagoda, have also asked the monks to stop handing out lucky tokens to pilgrims following a violent fight last year.
People raise their hands for luck tokens distributed by monks at the Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi in 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Hai
The Perfume (Huong) Pagoda is a vast complex of temples and shrines built in the 17th century, and is surrounded by a poetic landscape of rivers and mountains. 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.
There are around 8,000 spring festivals held across Vietnam, many of them in the northern region, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Former culture minister Hoang Tuan Anh told VnExpress in 2015 that many festivals had been distorted and commercialized.
“People have stopped caring about preserving our cultural values. They fight, steal and trample,” he said.