Although a few months later the Nao Cong Festival will take place, local people and authority start preparing for this. Nao Cong Festival is the festival of Giay, Dao, and Hmong people. The festival was first launched in the 1950s. There is a three-room shrine in Ta Van, which is built in front of the hanging bridge to Ta Van Village. It is the place that all local people of Muong Hoa Valley gather to celebrate Nao Cong festival.
Nao Cong festival includes 3 main parts: ritual of worshipping Gods, ceremony of declaring general convention and banquet. The ritual of worshipping Gods takes place in the shrine called Tser Dangz. The shrine consists of 3 rooms. The center room is for worshipping two officials who deserve credit for constructing Muong Hoa Valley and protecting local people. Altars of two officials’ dames are placed in the right room. The left one is for worshipping the mountain god and the king of ocean. Offerings in the ritual are black buffaloes, pigs and poultries which are purchased by villagers’ donation. In addition, Ta Van Giay village is also responsible for preparing incenses, bowls and plates.
In the ancient time, the ritual leader was a shaman of Tay ethic people in Muong Bo. However, since the 1940s, the ritual leader is an oracle of Giay people in Ta Van village. The shaman dressing in tunic, baggy trouser, not wearing hat or scarf, solemnly reads out loud the divine words. The content is about inviting Gods to attend the rite and praying for God blesses.
After the ritual, officials of Muong Hoa would make a speech of general convention. The convention focuses on 4 main issues:
- Security of villages: Villagers are not allowed to steal and have to take measures to prevent stealer from elsewhere.
- Forest protection: Villages of H’mong, Dao, and Giay people are to be hard-working, not to cut firewood and bamboo sprouts in forbidden forest area and the shared forest in the village’s watershed.
- Cattle shepherding: Annually, except for the period from October 15th to January 5th (in Lunar calendar), cattle are banned from grazing to avoid crop damage.
- Social behavior: Villagers are to help each other, especially families in bereavement. The unsound relationships between men and women are criticized.
Different from other festivals of Sapa people such as “Nhan Song”, “Nao Song”, “Nao Cong festival is not held for discussing the convention. Everybody attending has the duty to follow regulations which is disseminated by the official. After convention ceremony, people attend the banquet happily. Villagers gather to eat in the shrine’s yard while the official the ritual leader have their banquet inside the shrine.
Nao Cong Festival is a traditional festival in Sapa. It is the time not only for worshipping the Gods and praying for a better life but also for local people gathering to enjoy a happy time together. Nao Cong Festival is also an ideal occasion for tourists to explore unique cultural features of ethnic groups in Sapa.