Nghinh Ong Festival at Song Doc- The attractive cultural event of Ca Mau

Nghinh Ong (Song Doc) is a long-standing traditional festival in Ca Mau. It is a prayer for good weather, national security and prosperity. Particularly, the fishers pray for a safe sea trip and a large number of shrimp and fish. Nghinh Ong Song Doc Festival is also a chance for visitors to Ca Mau to learn about the cultural beauty of fishers.

On the 11th, 12th, and 13th of March, 2017 (The 14th, 15th and 16th of February in the lunar calendar) in Song Doc town (Tran Van Thoi district, Ca Mau province), Nghinh Ong festival is held solemnly. The festival honors Ca Ong (Whale) called “Nam Hai Dai Tuong Quan” (His Excellency the Marshal of the Southern Sea) by fishers.

nghinh ong song doc ca mau

According to folk tale and for fishers, “Ca Ong” is a very sacred object, the guardian god for the vessels. When there are big waves and winds or ships are in distress, “He” will appear to escort ships into the mainland safely. Vice versa, when the Whale is in distress and his body drifted to the shore will be held the burial ceremony and worshiped solemnly. At present, the whale mausoleum in Song Doc and the whale mausoleum in Da Bac Island (Tran Van Thoi district) are built up by local people to worship his bone.

Nghinh Ong Festival is a long-standing traditional festival of fishers in Song Doc  that has been preserved for hundreds of years, so there are tens of thousands of people and no less than 1,000 boats attending the festival (from February 14 – 16 in the lunar calendar).

At 12:00 (noon) on February 15 in the lunar calendar, the ceremony starts at the Whale mausoleum, then marches around the Song Doc Town. The procession includes a lion dance team, followed by a big drum, then ritual performers and groups of “shrimp, crabs, fish”, etc. Local people stand on both sides of the road and cheer, creating the animated festival atmosphere.

The procession of “God Nam Hai’ is a group of people in military clothes of King Gia Long, a group dressed in oriental robe and ready-to-wear turban that take “Long Dinh” on board and go to the sea.

nghinh ong song doc du lich ca mau

The boats are decorated with flags, banners, slogans, etc. like a flower boat. In the small and large boats to the sea, there is a main ship group consisting of 3 ships (called a hydraulic ship) and responsible for transporting the Organizing Committee, dignitaries and ritual performers

On the ships to the sea to join Nghinh Ong Festival, strange or familiar guests are invited to have free meals, visitors will be delighted to watch the immense sea, each ship with flags and brilliant flowers, the waves and listen to the legend about Whale’s saving fishers on the sea.

Each ship participating in Nghinh Ong runs to the sea in the direction of Hon Chuoi without limitation of the time or distance from the mainland to the sea. When the ship comes to the water line, the master shall pray and make obeisance, burn incense and “xin keo”. When “Xin keo” is successful, the ship will return and bring the vial of seawater to Whale mausoleum for worship.

According to the religious belief of Song Doc people, the time of his procession to the mausoleum is the most sacred moment for all families to bring incense-table: incense, fruit, chicken and duck, roasted pigs to the front of the worship house to show respect for “Duc Ong Nam Hai”.

In addition to the traditional rituals, at Nghinh Ong Song Doc Festival, there are also traditional games such as Chinese chess, stick pushing, tug of war, lion dance, sword dance and sports: volleyball, soccer, etc.

Nghinh Ong Festival in Song Doc is a cultural beauty and is the local people’s belief in the sea god preserved for many years. It is a cultural event that needs to be preserved, promoted and put into exploitation to attract more tourists to Ca Mau.

Article and Photo:  La Mong Linh

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