Festival in Gia Lai

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Leaving the tomb festival

Time: Not fixed, often lasting from 3 to 7 days in spring time
Place: The cemetery
Objects of worship:The deceased people
Characteristics:Rituals of sacrifice offerings, eating, playing of the whole community beside the tomb house.

Unlike other ethnic minorities in Vietnam, some groups in the Central Highlands, including E de, Gia Rai, Ba Na do not have the practice of worshipping their ancestors and deceased persons. The bereaved only look after the tombs of the deceased for a period of three, five or seven years, and thereafter perform a “leaving the tomb” ceremony to bid farewell them to the village of the death, and the tomb is left unattended. The “leaving the tomb” Festival is the most important one reserved for the deceased held by their family members. All the local villagers attend the festival that lasts for three or four days. It involves two to three slaughtered buffaloes and hundreds of small jars of liquor.

The meaning of the “leaving the tomb” festival is to see off the spirits of the deceased to their permanent world so that they can reincarnate and continue a new life. As for the living, they finish their duties and are free to remarry.

The festival is associated to the cycle of agriculture. It is held in the lunar first months that is the transition time between the two cycles of production. The festival is also an opportunity for farmers to give thanks to the gods and pray for a new bumper crop.

Although this ceremony is associated to the death, it is very cheerful, bearing the nuance of a festival. The festival includes three steps: taking the tomb to pieces, erecting the new tomb, and seeing off the death’s spirits to their world and treating the villagers with a feast.