by Cong Thanh
DA NANG — Elderly fisherman Le Van Le has never failed to attend the fish-worshipping festival held every year on the 16th day of the first lunar month in Thanh Khe village in central Da Nang City.
|Hook, line and sinker: Le Van Le (left) and Ho Van Ngan at the temple of the God of the Sea on Thanh Khe beach. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
This year's two-day festival on a 12-km stretch of beach in Thanh Khe ended yesterday.
Le, 66, is just one of the 4,000 villagers, 80 per cent of whom are sea fishermen, who religiously take part in the ceremony, and lately, he has become one of the festival's organisers.
"The annual festival is an indispensable part of life in the village and as culturally important as the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. The festival is held in the hope of winning favour with the sea god," Le said.
"Fishermen often host festivals in the middle of the first lunar month, which is the start of the fishing season. Most trawlers go to the sea as soon as the festival ends."
The festival, which was first held in 1893, is the village's biggest event of the year.
On the first day of this year's festival, local residents set launched 300 paper flower garlands into the sea.
"During the ceremony people pray for the dead and to the god of the sea. Fishermen believe by so doing they will have a safe year and good catches," Ho Van Ngan said.
Ngan, 77, who retired from fishing 10 years ago, said he took part in the procession each year without fail.
"Worshipping the god of the sea and saying prayers for the dead fishermen is very important to us. It helps to reassure fishermen who face constant dangers when at sea," Ngan said.
During the ceremony, 100 elderly fishermen carried a sedan in a procession from the sea to the beach.
A team of 12 young men acted as boatmen paddling from the sea to beach.
Symbolically, they are carrying the god of the sea to the mainland, where he is traditionally offered a boiled pig's head and three trays of food and fruits.
During the festival there were also competitions involving cooking, fishing net weaving and folk singing. In an average year, the village's 35 trawlers catch about 8,000 tonnes of seafood, with each fishermen earning between VND3-5 million (US$150-250) a month.
Le said he is a fifth-generation fisherman and earns a good living from the sea.
"I have two trawlers, which earn VND200 million each month from tuna catches. However, we also pay out a lot in production costs, which include wages and fuel, to say nothing of fluctuating fish prices."
Le Nguyen Khanh, chairman of Thanh Khe Farmers Association, said the village had also begun to promote tourism services, which had proved profitable.
"The village has a long pristine beach and we hope that local people can improve their income through tourism services. But we need to formulate a master plan with the city's administration," Khanh said.
Despite the well-wishes of the festival-goers to the sea god, the wind has recently picked up preventing the fishermen from going to sea. But the fishermen are still hopeful their prayers will be answered.
"I delayed my trip for a few days because the weather is bad," Le said. "However, I expect this year will be particularly prosperous because the tuna price has increased from VND25,000 to 30,000 per kg. It's a good sign for us in the new year." — VNS