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Cultural managers, experts dignify holiness of traditional festivals

Update: February, 03/2018 - 09:00
Jam packed: Last year, the Hương Pagoda festival attracted 1.5 million visitors. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Religious festivals are sometimes marred by improper manners such as attendees throwing money to god’s palanquin during the parade and fighting for offerings on the altars, according to Trịnh Thị Thủy, deputy minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The Ministry hosted a conference to review the shortcomings of festivals in the previous year and to make plans for cultural festivals and activities held this year, especially during the New Year celebration.

The conference was joined by representatives from a number of festivals’ organising boards and departments of culture nationwide.

Beside the fine cultural values of the festivals, Thủy pointed out that there are many bad behaviours and manners displayed by participants and organisers.

The Ministry mobilised local people and authorities to change aspects of festivals that are harmful to the environment, causing disorder and encouraging violence.

Buffalo-fighting festivals were banned in Lào Cai, Yên Bái, Nghệ An and Quảng Nam provinces because they involved violence that may have a bad influence on the community, especially children. People no longer slaughter the pig at the Ném Thượng Village Festival in the northern province of Bắc Ninh.

 “I acknowledge that the festival organisers tried to eliminate beggardom, overcharging for services and violent activities in festivals,” she said.

“However, the effort hasn’t brought good results at all festivals.”

She said there are several traditional festivals with violent and chaotic aspects such as at the Sóc Temple and Hương (Perfume) Pagoda festival in Hà Nội where people tried to vie hard with each other for offerings even when they are displayed on the altars.

“Festival organisers and culture managers should not be blamed for the large number of festival goers,” said Thủy.

“We should raise people’s awareness of the holiness of the festivals and rituals. People fight for the offerings as they believe that they will receive good fortune and be blessed by the gods. But when they know the action is improper and shows disrespect to the gods, they will stop doing that.”

Bùi Hoài Sơn, director of the Việt Nam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, agreed, “We should be clear about the kind of festival (religious, cultural or historic) and the participants to find the suitable propaganda”. 

“In the religious festivals, we should emphasise the role of holy rituals and gods. When people understand, they will not show disrespect and will be aware of practising the festival with deferential and respectful attitude.”

The Hương Pagoda Festival honours Buddhism and many pilgrims and festival goers are vegetarians and Buddhists. Sơn suggested that the organisers should arrange food sellers in separate areas.

“Many people complain that it’s not nice to see local people slaughter animals and cook at the food area of the festival,” said Sơn.

“I agree that the food area meets the demand of the festival participants but the meat sellers should be located in a separate area.”

“Through the festivals, we also promote an image of a beautiful and civilised country and the unique and diversified culture of the ethnic groups,” he said.

Sơn stressed that the festivals are organised to meet spiritual and entertainment demands of the people but still need to preserve cultural values and fine traditions.

Nguyễn Văn Hậu, head of the Hương Pagoda Festival organising board, said he and the staff are ready to organise the festival which starts on February 26.

“We will examine the site, upgrade the toilets and security system and raise local people’s awareness of the need for proper behaviour,” he said.

Last year, the festival received 1.5 million visitors, according to Hậu. — VNS


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