The event is held annually between the seventh and ninth day of the fourth lunar month to commemorate Saint Gióng, a local hero who sacrificed his life to defeat invaders. It is celebrated with processions, rituals and performances. The Gióng festival, one of the most popular in the Red River delta region.
The Vietnam Culture and Art Sub-Institute said “The festival follows a format written in an ancient book called Hoi Le (Festival Regulations), which was passed down through the generations”.
The main day of the event falls on the ninth, when flags are carried from the Mother Temple to the Upper Temple and sacrifices are made. People perform ritual dances and songs, while battles against the invaders are re-enacted. The festival highlights the ancestors’ fighting spirit against foreign invaders as well as the people’s aspiration for peace and prosperity.
The Gióng Festival includes several symbolic activities, such as Saint Statue bathing, a procession, an incense offering, and elephant and horse transformation. The procession is the most important activity. According to the tradition, people offer bamboo flowers, paper elephants and horses, and other objects related to Saint Gióng. The festival gives visitors a chance to travel Vietnam and watch the performance of traditional rituals and artistic activities, which have been handed down from generations to generations.
The Gióng Festival.
UNESCO recognised Vietnam’s Gióng festival as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. Vietnam has nearly 8,000 festivals a year, of which 88.36 percent is folk festival, 6 percent is religious festival and 4 percent is historical events.
Phù Đổng temple was constructed during the Ly dynasty (11th
centuries) to worship Saint Gióng, who fought the Yin invaders under the reign of the sixth Hung King (around 500 BC). It houses 37 royal documents dating from the Le dynasty (1427 – 1789) to the Nguyen dynasty (1802 – 1945) as well as a number of treasured stone steles produced during the Le dynasty.